Tag Archives: St. Paul

Saint Paul’s sense of humor

I would never have realized that St. Paul had a sense of humor until I facilitated a workshop for catechists in the remote village of Agua Buena, Concepción, yesterday.

There were nineteen of us and I was using an activity to help the people understand the Church as the Body of Christ in the world, an activity they could use with confirmation candidates.

After they shared some ideas they had of the church, we talked a bit about the Church as the Body of Christ and we read 1 Corinthians 12: 12-13.

Then, I wanted them to draw a body on some sheets of papers I had. Nobody wanted to and so I had one of the guys lay on the paper and I drew around him. Then I asked them to write the names of the different parts of the body.

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I had to do a little prompting and so we added rectum and sexual organs.

I had done this activity with two other groups last week, but this group added a part that neither group had before – breasts!

Then I had them read 1 Corinthians 12: 14-26.

As they read verse 17, I heard a few snickers:

If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?

Somehow they had gotten the image of a body that was only an eye or an ear. And it was funny.

We talked a bit and I shared how they had helped me see the humor in Saint Paul. What would a body look if it was only an ear?

That’s ridiculous, absurd, funny – and tragic.

We talked about how we need all the parts of the body and if we lack one something is missing.

Then, after reading verse 27 (“Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.”), I had them write their names or a symbol of themselves near the part of the body of Christ that they were.

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To close I read St. Teresa of Avila’s prayer:

 Christ has no body on earth but yours;
no hands on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which Christ looks out
with compassion on the world.
Yours are the feet with which he chooses
to go about doing good.

Today, while writing this entry I remembered a portion of a painting I saw in a Berlin art gallery in November 2006. The antithesis of Paul’s image of the Body of Christ, sorely tragic:

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Paradigms of conversion

Today the Church celebrates the conversion of St. Paul, the day when he was thrown from his high horse, according to popular belief and many artistic representations of the event.

Yet, if you examine the accounts of Paul’s conversion in the Acts of the Apostles, there is no horse. He is merely surrounded by light and falls to the ground.

This image of sudden conversion and being thrown off one’s high horse has affected many of our ideas of conversion. Many evangelicals, in fact, emphasize knowing the day and the hour when they were saved.

But conversion doesn’t always happen that way. There is not always that sudden moment when everything changes.

There are, I believe, for most of us key moments when the call of God is clearer and more forceful. But real conversion is a process, with many moments.

I think that conversion is never finished – until the final moment when God calls us to live in His presence.

Conversion is a turning, a moving away from our self-centeredness to the all-embracing love of God, an ongoing process of letting God’s love change us and open our hearts to all people, to all creation, and to the God who is “all in all.”

The Jesuit theologian Bernard Lonergan also talks about different types of conversion, all of which are passages from “self-preoccupation” to “self-transcendence.”

Religious conversion is from alienation to recognition of the Holy Mystery; theistic conversion is from impersonal mystery to the recognition of a personal God. Christian conversion moves from an incomplete community between God and humanity to the recognition that Jesus is the Christ. Ecclesial conversion moves us from individualized religion to incorporation into the People of God, the Church. Moral conversion is the passage from selfish indifference to values to a moral life. Intellectual conversion is from “undifferentiated consciousness” to the “holistic view of truth.”

I find these distinctions helpful – but incomplete. For in all this, conversion is letting God work in us; it’s not all up to us. It’s God’s work – which needs our consent.

And so not all of us will be struck down to the earth in a moment of conversion; most of us will struggle daily on the road of conversion.

But we need to remember that many have gone on this path before and there are many by our side. And most of all, God beckons us: “Come.”