St. Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles

I myself am convinced about you, my brothers and sisters,
that you yourselves are full of goodness,
filled with all knowledge, and able to admonish one another.
But I have written to you rather boldly in some respects to remind you,
because of the grace given me by God
to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles
in performing the priestly service of the Gospel of God,
so that the offering up of the Gentiles may be acceptable,
sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to boast in what pertains to God.
For I will not dare to speak of anything
except what Christ has accomplished through me
to lead the Gentiles to obedience by word and deed,
by the power of signs and wonders,
by the power of the Spirit of God,
so that from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum
I have finished preaching the Gospel of Christ.
Thus I aspire to proclaim the Gospel
not where Christ has already been named,
so that I do not build on another’s foundation,
but as it is written:

Those who have never been told of him shall see,
and those who have never heard of him shall understand.

Romans 15:14-21

 

St. Paul on the Road to Damascus, Caravaggio, 1600-01, Santa Maria Popolo, Rome

St. Paul on the Road to Damascus, Caravaggio, 1600-01, Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome

 

I am a huge fan of Caravaggio, as my readers know, and this is one of my favorite paintings by him. We see Paul, thrown from his horse and sprawled on his back, blinded as he gropes toward the vision that only he can see. The horse and groom appear unconcerned, which only serves to highlight Paul’s distress. Caravaggio uses a technique known as tenebrism, with a spotlight illuminating the scene and offering strong contrasts of light and dark. The unusual composition is mostly taken up with the horse, but the red cloak draws our eyes down to the stricken apostle.

Have you experienced a similarly disorienting conversion? Okay, so maybe you weren’t literally thrown from a horse! But perhaps you were thrown off your life’s course in unexpected ways by the sudden, possibly unwelcome, invasion of grace. I know I sure was! Like Saul, who persecuted the early church, I thought the last thing I could ever possibly become was a Christian! Yet it happened. And God still has to sometimes knock me from my horse, so to speak, to set me on the right path. I see myself in Paul, laying stunned on the road, groping blindly for a clearer vision of God’s will for my life.

What about you?

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3 thoughts on “St. Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles

  1. hermitsdoor says:

    I viewed Caravaggio’s painting of Paul’s Conversion this Spring. What is not relayed in photographs is the placement of the painting, as this relates to the viewer. It is in a narrow chaple to the left side of the apse. To view it (beside donating a Euro to turn the lgihts on for about 90 seconds), your eye-level is just below Paul and no more than about 10 feet away. Thus, you are on the ground, with Paul, looking up, pondering what has just happened.
    Oscar
    P.S. While in St. Pauls Outside the Walls, I photographed all 36 frescos of Paul’s ministry, which line the upper sections of the church. I’m working on a future blog series, identifying the references from Acts to each of these fresco. I could find little about these frescos in the guide books about the church or on the internet. While they are not as compositionally or artistically significant at Caravagio’s paintings, they tell the story quiet well. I probably will not have this oganized until after the new year.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The Contrite Catholic says:

    I LOVE THIS PAINTING TOO 🙂 I have it up in my ‘about me’ section ; it spoke to me, metaphorically.

    Liked by 1 person

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