In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul tells the community his own story and how he came to Christian faith. It didn’t happen through study or through someone else’s tutoring. It came as a sheer and shocking grace to the most unlikely of people.
“You heard of my former way of life in Judaism,” he says with almost comical laconicism. Paul’s conversion story must have been well-known at the time. “How I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it.”
Let those words sink in. Paul wasn’t just opposed to Christianity; he didn’t simply argue against it or ignore it. He actively, brutally, and violently persecuted it.
The Acts of the Apostles speaks of Paul “breathing murderous threats” and seeking to bring Christians back in chains. He was, in a word, about as far from Christian faith as you could get. He was spiritually dead.
Yet Christ brought him back to life: “When God, who from my mother’s womb had set me apart and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me…” (Galatians 1:15).
God fashioned Paul’s Christian faith from nothing, and here’s the application for all of us: don’t give up hope, even when you are in desperate straits. Don’t surrender, even when things seem utterly void of meaning and hope.
You may be on your last legs; you may have nothing left in the tank; you may be moving in the wrong direction.
But don’t give up! God’s grace can bring you back and renew your life again.
Bishop Robert Barron is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries.