In today's reading from Galatians we hear St. Paul reference twice how awful he had been and how his reputation was,
the one who once was persecuting us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.
While there were many who rejoiced over this, I'm sure there were those who said it sarcastically. Human nature has not changed that much.
In the recent PBS series the Roosevelts it was observed that FDR could not be elected today because of his disability. What does it say about our "advancement" that what was possible in 1933 is unthinkable 2014? C.S. Lewis was right in pointing out the error of thinking that because a culture has advanced in one area it more advanced in every area. Sometimes we advance in one area and take giant steps backward in others.
In our time we are obsessed with "the appearance standard." It's how things look that matters not how they are. And the real question are two. Do we still believe in conversion? And if we do believe in conversion, do we believe only in the magical once in a lifetime kind from the movies or do we believe in the lifelong ongoing kind lived by real Christians?
As the bishops gather in Rome, the question occurs to me: could Saul of Tarsus have been named a bishop in the Catholic Church today?
Both outside the Church, and unfortunately inside as well, we look for the appearance of perfection, and then act shocked or indignant when forced to confront the imperfection in our leaders. We seem to forget that only God is perfect. Do we really think that after the episode on the road to Damascus Paul never sinned again. Of course he did, we all do. We all sin on a regular basis.
At the very center of our faith is our knowledge that no matter how often we fall on the road, Jesus is always there to pick us up, dust us off, and point us in the right direction, one more time—over and over again, until we reach the kingdom.
If we read St. Paul's letters carefully his many imperfections shine through, including his "thorn in the flesh" whatever that was. Our imperfections remind us of our constant need for God's grace, and total dependence on him. St. Paul accepted this about himself can we do the same of ourself and others.