Lent Day 27 – Sheer and Shocking Grace

by Bishop Robert Barron


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.

   

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  • Anton D

    ‘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.’

    Thank you Fr. Barron. Have a nice day!

  • concerned citizen

    thank you Bishop Barron for another inspiring reflection. It is indeed amazing what God’s grace can do. From being supernaturally dead when we were born to this world, we like St. Paul, become supernaturally alive when we are baptized. We become children of God and heirs to the Kingdom of Heaven. Isn’t that really amazing?

    • ber

      Yes concerned truley amazing I loved the way you used our baptism to show how we are blessed with grace will mediate on this today blessings

  • ber

    Don’t give up. even though your heart is breaking and pain is a memory to remind you you are still living who knows the mind of God grace is a gift unearned. We hear when someone turns back to the faith someone was praying for him Jesus delights in misfits so noone may douth his intervention that he alone is the author of all grace he sees the potential of you and will use you accordingly to the times There is some knight’s some soldiers some servent some prince’s some horsemen some marters we are all called or graced to be one or the other. Paul was an obvious choice there could be no doubt of his change of heart where has God graced us that is where we grow .grace is an intervention of God at a given moment in time where he reveals himself to poqure his mission in a given soul for his greater glory and the salvation of souls
    Today I pray for youl all that you may be graced this day guys blessings bernie

  • Jane

    Paul on the road to Damascus has been a recurring theme for me this Lent. Truly an inspiration of hope for my family, country and the church. It is awesome to see God work in this way. Very encouraging so as to never give up, Have a blessed week everyone.

  • Vilma

    Comforting reflection! Thank you. Always good to read something that serves to help you re-focus on the goodness of the Lord! http://www.shepherdoffaith.com

  • jesspinosa

    I am praying for many people, including a member of my family who is very dear to me, to return to the Catholic Church. There are times when my prayers seem so futile and useless, but I have come to believe and accept that it is not for me to know the outcome of my prayers. It may not happen while I am still on earth, but it will happen, in God’s own good time. My job is to continue holding on to my rosary beads and pray for them with all my might.

    • Nancy Rynders

      So true – many times we won’t know the outcome of prayers for others, but can’t let that keep us from continuing those prayers. We would only hope that, when others are praying for us, they have the same perseverance. God bless your day!

    • concerned citizen

      Jess, when at times, we wonder why so many blessings come our way, it is most likely someone out there is praying for us. He need not be someone we know. At the same time, when we pray for for a general group of persons, like for the conversion of sinners, we may not think it is being answered, but rest assured someone out there that we do not know is being converted by the graces we prayed for.

    • http://www.irishmike.org/ Michael Lee Cornwell

      “J”,

      You have wisdom…. that is the knowledge and trust that God has received and heard your cries and will answer them whether we see the outcome or not.

      The evil one and his henchman know and understand the power of prayer even in its simplist form and most of all they hate the rosary and are literally scared of it.

      Lord knows we need more prayer warriors in these troubled times you are another who God has called to pray for others .

      Peace and prayers,

      Michael

  • Marthe Lépine

    As I read this, and came to where you said that Paul was “breathing murderous threats”, an idea crossed my mind: Maybe it is a crazy idea, but it seemed to me that we could entrust to Paul those other murderous people currently very active in the Middle-East, e.g. all of the ISIS people? Do you think it would make sense to write a special prayer, or even dedicate a special day of prayers, or a novena, perhaps, to ask for St.Paul’s intercession for those people who are blinded by extremism? We constantly read about the fate of the martyrs they kill, but it seems to me that we also need to pray for the souls of their murderers.

    • Anton D

      May be you are not alone to think so. The Pope has also called for day of adoration and prayer.

    • concerned citizen

      that is a good suggestion Marthe. But it is to me, an equally good suggestion to pray also to St. Stephen, the first martyr. I always say, that I would not be surprised if St. Stephen had prayed for the conversion of Saul and offered his death and martyrdom for him.

      • Marthe Lépine

        You are correct, I had not thought about St. Stephen. Good suggestion.

    • Barbara Ann Baugh

      I read somewhere that some of the terrorists who participated in the executions of the Christians have been converted by witnessing the prayers of the Christians as they were being executed.

  • Penelope

    I lived a Damascus experience when I was young. In a moment of despair, I turned to God. It was a moment of pure Grace. Since then, there have been other “Damascus” experiences. And I am rescued time and time again. Like others who have shared in our reflections, I too, for many years, have been living a very difficult trial, but these days I look at my trial as my Cross, my Calvary, my Passion – because Jesus has shown me a new way. I still struggle, I get to the point where I can’t sleep, when there is much fear, agony, anxiety, I weep, I cry, I sob – but – I know that I am not alone, I have learned that there is only one Person to go to, the Lord Jesus Christ, and Grace comes again and again. The Lord lifts me up, comforts me, and sends me help along the way.

    Interestingly, THE LORD ALSO SENDS ME ON MY WAY. Even in the trial, the Lord calls me, to serve – at the same time. In my suffering, He equips me, and sends me on my way. This is pure Grace.

    Presently, I am organizing prayer teams for an event in April. I also hope to speak this week to a priest about putting in place a healing ministry at his parish. This past weekend I ministered on two prayer teams at two separate Masses in two separate churches, the first Saturday morning, the second Sunday morning. Then we attended our own Mass last night, where we were Ministers of Communion. And later this week I will be meeting with a new directee for Spiritual Direction.

    This is what Jesus did all throughout his Passion. In his suffering for us, even as he carried his Cross to Calvary, he continued his ministry to those around him: he prayed for the disciples, he instituted the Holy Eucharist, he encouraged the women of Jerusalem, he took care of his Mother, he forgave those around him, he encouraged the thief on the cross next to him, the list goes on.

    In our sufferings for ourselves and for others, he calls us to do the same: to serve those around us as well. What a Mighty and Wise God we serve!

    Where does my help come from? My help comes from You, maker of heaven, creator of the earth.
    O how I need You, Lord. Come and rescue me. In Jesus’ Holy Name. Amen.

    Thank you Bishop Barron…your reflections are a blessing for my life.

    • http://www.irishmike.org/ Michael Lee Cornwell

      Hi Penelope,

      One reason for your trials is that you are closer to Jesus then you may believe!

      Many times the Lord will show the evil one “just a very small portion of what He has planned for you……. just enough to make the evil one bounce off the walls of hell trying to slow you down and/or destroy you but the Lord has got you under His Wing and won’t allow the evil one toinflict any more suffering upon you than you can bear.
      The more you are in tune with the sufferings of Christ Jesus the more arrows the evil one will throw at you because you and others like you have become threats to him. If you were not, he would not bother with you!

      Peace and prayers,

      Michael

      • Penelope

        Thank you, Michael, for your words of encouragement. As I read your message, the words ‘light and momentary troubles’ came to me, and I found the Scripture in 2Corinthians 4.
        What a beautiful chapter to read!
        And, it’s your message Michael, that you often share with us.

        “We have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair, persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.”
        “So we do not lose heart. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure.”
        All for the love of Jesus Christ. Amen.

        Thank you!
        2Corinthians 4:7-12, 16a,17.

        • http://www.irishmike.org/ Michael Lee Cornwell

          Penelope,

          Beautiful and emotionally moving.
          Tears of comfort cane to me!

          Thank you,

          Peace,

          Michael

          • Penelope

            Thank you Lord Jesus! Bless you, Michael.

          • http://www.irishmike.org/ Michael Lee Cornwell

            Penelope,

            As I read Corinthians, I pondered how much of the things we do in life mimimic what the Lord does in us!

            In welding school we learn that the weld is stronger than the material we are welding. In prayer, when we ask the Lord to fix the cracks in us, the power and Love of the Holy Spirit repairs those cracks, purified in the Blood of Jesus and makes them whole again restoring the oneness of the clay vessel making the vessel stronger then it was before.

            The parts of the material we are welding must be sterilizied, via the heat of the welder or the pieces won’t stay together. That is what Confession and the Blood of Jesus does for our cracks of life.

            The Eucharist sustains the welds the Spirit put there. Though at times, our vessels don’t look pretty they can still hold the most beautiful thing Jesus ever gave us, His Body and Blood in the Eucharist!

            Peace,

            Michael

          • Penelope

            Amen.

    • Barbara Ann Baugh

      It took six years, 2 bouts with cancer and one life threatening event before I saw the “Light”

      • Penelope

        Thank you for sharing this, Barbara, I understand more than you know. I remember saying to the Lord at one time, that I didn’t know what was ahead, and that he had never said to me that I would be well, but that I knew that He would be with me. And I was well in the end.
        May the Lord heal you with His Perfect Presence and Healing Love.
        In Jesus’ Holy Name. Amen.
        I’ll keep you in my prayers Barbara, for your continued healing, in mind, body, and spirit.
        God bless you!

        • Barbara Ann Baugh

          Thank-you Penelope

  • http://www.irishmike.org/ Michael Lee Cornwell

    Good Morning all,

    There are many beautiful words of hope in a world full of hate.

    Though Dr. Scott Hahn did not persecute “christians” in general,
    he did go after Catholics!

    But God had other plans! Once, a person who believed Catholicswere “hell bound”,
    by a special grace from God, became one of its biggest defenders.
    Check out his story!

    At Augustine was another lost sheep. His mother’s faith and continual prayers, moved God Heart!

    Peace and prayers,

    Michael
    The Prayer Warrior

    • concerned citizen

      Michael, I love his book, Rome Sweet Home. I have read it so many times, but still feel excited reading about his journey. I have also given many copies of the book to my friends and relatives. We can also learn about the truths of our faith when we read the book. To those who have not read the book, I strongly suggest you do.

      • http://www.irishmike.org/ Michael Lee Cornwell

        Hi CC,

        In one of his CD’s from “Lighthouse Catholic Media”, he explains why Peter is “thevRock”, the leader of the “Catholic (Greek for ‘universal’) Catholic Church.

        He goes to a leading Protestant theologian and shows him why the “word Jesus uses for rock, referring to Peter, was not referring to the persaonnal strength of Peter, but Peter as the “foundation stone” upon who Jesus would build His hutch.
        Most Protestants define the word as to the strength the of Peter.
        After “proving to the theologian that the Catholics had it right and Protestants had it wrong the theologian told Scott, “That’s nice”!
        Scott was shocked that the Protestant theologian was not moved by what Scott proved to him.

        Having witnessed this “so what? “, attitude, he started to wonder, (not yet a Catholic cknvert) what else the Protestants had misinturpted or translated incorrectly.

        What better witness to the True Church founded and established by Jesus, than a man who heard the Holy Spirit tell him to seek out “the Truth” in God’s Word.

        Peace,

        Michael
        The Prayer Warrior

        • concerned citizen

          That’s why his book Rome Sweet Home is so interesting. Its almost like a detective story. I could hardly put down the book after I started reading it.

          • http://www.irishmike.org/ Michael Lee Cornwell

            CC,

            Thanks! I will have to check that out!

            Peace,

            Michael

        • Elizabeth

          Recently I listened to the CD from Lighthouse Media entitled the Dead Sea Scrolls by Dr. Bregsma. The Dead Sea Scrolls affirm many of the Catholic teachings that others scoffed at.

  • kayeloney@cox.net

    I will ever forget my real conversion. It has been over 25 years ago, but it is always before me ringing in my ear’s like it was yesterday. It was after my earthly Father passed away. I was visiting my earthly Mother, I picked up one of her booklets and was reading it, the Scared Heart promise’s of St. Margarette Marie Alacoqute I was reading it and tear’s started to flow down my face,and I heard a voice and saw Jesus speaking to me from the Cross. I died for You, Jesus said this 3 times and then he said I will do it again, I was so taken back by the last statement I will die for you again that hit me like fire going right through me, I could not stop Jesus he die on the Cross for me. I changed completely I did a 180 turn around I’m interested only in the Catholic faith I have read about, Mother Mary, the Saint’s, the Catholic Church, the Mystic’s. Jesus continues to teach me we walk together Praying for all Soul’s Past, Present and Future. Blessing’s to you.

    • ber

      Beautfull

    • concerned citizen

      God bless you Kaye!

    • http://www.irishmike.org/ Michael Lee Cornwell

      Kaye,

      Beautiful! Thank you!

      I often get tears when the Holy Spirit confirms something to me.
      In your case, He is pleased with your testimony and thanks you for hearing His voice years ago, through the Scared Heart.
      I have heard allot of testamonies over the years and I Don’rm’t get tears with each one, but that does not imply they were any less beautiful or moving than yours!
      Somehow yours is different It could be that your ministry is is about to change for the better, in a dramatic way.

      God speaks to us in many different ways and this may be the reason for my tears!

      God Bless you!

      Peace and prayers,

      Michael

  • Alicia

    Amen Amen! Wow Bishop Barron thank you for the encouragement to persevere in my faith and spiritual journey. I thought about the time when Jesus was in the desert and was weak, hungry, thirsty, and at that venerable human time, was tempted by the devil. Jesus went and stayed in the Word of God. The devil tried several times but Jesus persevered to His destination to the right Hand of the Father.
    Having my illness and pain connected to the Suffering Jesus, offered up constantly for God’s Mercy and the salvation of my child, my family, the world especially those in most need of Thy Mercy and me…. Gives me a peaceful feeling that I have a purpose in my pain and every time I have it I think of God! But whether or not I “feel” peace I must persevere looking to my final destination to be in heaven wrapped in a white blanket in the arms of God.

  • Joseph T. Garcia

    …”Renew my life , Lord “..

  • Jackie

    Thank God for grace. Grace can literally stop you in your tracks, set you in a better direction and you will reap the rewards on being faithful to your true self. I pray for grace every day and listen very attentively; for grace is very subtle, grace never forces it’s way in and always gives youy the choice to accept.

  • concerned citizen

    Today happens to be the feast day of St. Perpetua and Felicity who are also martyrs. What a sweet coincidence.The stories of their lives are very interesting too. Here is the link.

    http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=48

    • ber

      Looked this up concerned it’s very good their storie Scare’s me its happening to people now my goodness they are so blessed so brave it is a wonder of God thank you for sharing

    • Barbara Ann Baugh

      As I read the stories of the two martyrs, I felt that I was reading yet another story coming from the Middle East. There were two women that I have been praying for several years. One Bebi remains in prison in Pakistan under the death penalty. The other woman gave birth in chains and her health is damaged from it. But due to the prayers and petitions of all Christians she is free. St, Perpetua and Felicity wrap your arms around these women and free them and restore them to health.

  • Mary Jane Madeline

    Dear Father Barron, (for the first time),I respectfully disagree with you, that Paul (Saul) was spiritually dead. He was a zealous Jew. I believe he thought his Jewish Faith was being attacked and wanted to defend his faith.
    I am a member of the Holy Family Institute, a branch of ST Paul Society. Over the years maybe I have taken on a softer attitude of Paul.. But even in Scripture, Paul defends his stance,as a faithful Jew. And I agree, by the Grace of God through Jesus Christ, St Paul has led the Gentiles to Christianity with his amazing understanding. And I wonder how many Jewish persons as well ! God bless the media of communication that it be peaceful and true.God bless All.

    • Anton D

      May be Saul had only the Law and not the ‘Spirit of the Law’ which is love.
      As he(Paul) himself says later in 1 Corinthians 13.

    • Gary

      At the time of his persecution of the Christians, he was dead in Christ. After his conversion, he was alive in Christ.

    • concerned citizen

      Mary Jane, I agree that Saul was zealous about his Jewish faith and was full of life defending it. But his soul was supernaturally dead because he did not yet believe in Jesus as his Savior and had not yet been baptized. Just as we all were born spiritually dead and only came to have supernatural life after receiving the Sacrament of Baptism.

      • Mary Jane Madeline

        Concerned citizen, Thank you and may God bless you for sharing your understanding of this.Very true that with Baptism, we are children of the Kingdom of God. I have reflected on my response and what Bishop Barron was trying to communicate. My understanding is God’s Amazing Grace can change a persecutor of Jesus, to a Saint, as in the case of St Paul. I guess I tend to appreciate St Paul’s love and works for humanity,and forget about the heartless deeds he may have done as Saul.

  • Dayna Ellis

    Hope for the hopeless in your meditation today, Bishop Barron. May God bless you mightily for your inspirational reflection.

  • Mary Hilchey

    Trust in the Lord – Jesus help me……

  • Joe Paul Pelaez

    Thank you, very good reflection, truly appreciated.

  • Mike

    AMEN. I was as far from Christ as you can get, a communist with a special hatred for the Catholic Church, so I know what God’s amazing grace can accomplish because it brought me home to the Church.

    Don’t stop praying for the lost sheep, no matter what there is always hope!

  • Barbara Ann Baugh

    I have had a vision of Grace. Before my last surgery I was anointed for the sick. As the priest raised his hands over me to give me absolution I saw droplets of the brightest silver-white falling from his hands. The color was actually indescribable. Ever since I have felt completely cleansed. I can only describe the experience as a shower of cleansing grace.

    • http://www.irishmike.org/ Michael Lee Cornwell

      Barbara,

      That brought tears to my eyes. A special and much needed Grace for you but it was how the Lord delivered it that caused the tears!

      God is full of surprises and what’s nothing more then to make His children happy!

      Peace and thanksgiving for the Lord is Kind and Merciful! Amen.

      Michael

      • Barbara Ann Baugh

        Thank-you Michael

  • http://findmeinflorida.wordpresscom Tampa Lady

    Here’s my point that I grabbed from this: you may go one way, but God will have you go another way. He is in charge! I think we have to check in with HIm first. Also: God does have a plan for people in a grand scheme. :) We are the ones that have to learn. This is why I emphasize surrender to HIm. :)

  • ber

    I would like to share with you my own experience of grace when I was around twenty one day I felt so unloved crying I entered the church of sacred heart and st Catherine I sat at back of church crying with my head down they flowed and then I heard a voice which said. I love you I looked up church was empty I put my head down crying more and I heard. Look at me I love you I looked up and realized it was Jesus talking in the tabernacle he called me forward and from that day on although there has being tough times I know that in a tabernacle there is someone that really loves me and is with me at all times praise god

  • Carol Miller

    Thank you, Bishop Barron. Your commentary came at just the right moment for me. My spirit has been very depressed over my daughter who is a single mother with 3 little girls who may lose her job. Thank you for these encouraging words. It has reinstalled hope for me.

    • http://www.irishmike.org/ Michael Lee Cornwell

      Carol,

      Fear not! The Holy Spirit is with her and her daughters.
      I have asked the Blessed Mother to cover them with her mantle, to asked the Holy Spirit to guide her in her job or to a better one.
      Jesus cannot deny His Mother anything she asks of Him nor can the Father nor can the Holy Spirit!

      A mothers Love is unlike anything else and who better to help your daughter and granddaughters than the Mother of God!

      On my prayers,

      Michael

      • Carol Miller

        Thank you, Michael. I am in a very depressed state over my daughter and granddaughters. Please continue to pray for me. Thank you. Carol M.

        • http://www.irishmike.org/ Michael Lee Cornwell

          Carol,

          I will!

          May God and the Blessed Mother be with you and yours!

          Peace and prayers,

          Michael

  • Anthony Siwczak

    The best conversion story is the account of St. Paul’s on the road to Damascus. God is chasing after us to come home ; if only we and the ones we pray for can let the light in , because God never will force our free wills to accept Him by force. Just thank Him for the Grace to be saved. AMEN !!

  • Barbara

    And so too the same can happen to ISIS. Let us pray for them and their deliverance.

  • rtclovesmac

    Lord knows our concerns and desires and is pleaed to grant them in accordance with His Will.

    Our prayers and supplications for others sustain them more than they know but we pray, will one day come to realize.

    I commend my family to your prayers as yours are in mine.

    And as crazy as it sounds I pray for the conversion of those who are persecuting Him and Hus children.

  • Kathiehc

    Thank you, Bishop Barron, for this hope filled reflection!

  • Linda Dokey

    Praying for All those who have never known Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

  • Alexis Chacchia

    Re-reading this today and considering the description of Paul before his conversion as a brutal persecutor of the fledgling church and being spiritually dead makes me think on Javert in Hugo’s Les Miserables. He is an example of someone being given the opportunity to see the light, to be knocked down with revelation, but he went the other way, he refused the light and the call – and the result was his own destruction – not that of his victim, the one God also called – Valjean – who answers the call from the lowliest of beginnings.

  • Shirley Bachmeier

    I needed this word of encouragement tonight. We are entering Holy Week and I would like to be able to say that my Lenten experience was everything I wanted it to be. I seemed to be in spiritual battle for the whole of it. I pray that my Holy Week be a time of standing under the cross of Jesus breathing in His grace that poured forth from His Side, with His mercy gushing forth for all of us who fall short of His Will and purpose. I ask for prayers as I pray for you. Thank you Bishop Barron for your gift of clarity in sharing your messages with us. I just finished watching PASSION on television tonight…a very different but amazing production set to music with Trish Yearwood as a powerful Mary in a setting of people of all faiths. It was done in New Orleans with a huge crowd of people from all cultures and ages. The testimonies of the reality of the Living Christ was seen in the faces of all the people with tears running down their faces, the most loving serene expressions of their living faith that spoke to the television audience that maybe needed to experience the PASSION in a new way. God is calling his people; He loves us and wants all to return to Him.