February 1, 1998
Mary is dressed in slate gray with a long white veil. She has her hands folded in prayer. She is accompanied by two angels. The angels are beside her and hover off the ground just a bit. One is dressed in gold and the other in green. She is also accompanied by St. Paul.
St. Paul is wearing a brown smock that comes down the front of him and sandals on his feet. He has short, sandy blond hair. He has a mustache and a beard that are also sandy blond. St. Paul has a medium build and appears to be middle aged. In one hand there is a gray tablet. In the other there is a shield, the kind used for a coat of arms, and it has FAITH written across it. St. Paul genuflects before the Blessed Mother. She is still in prayer.
The Blessed Mother’s Words:
Dear children, I am with you joyfully this day. I bring to you the evangelizer, one who answered the call of my son, who gave to all nations the gift of faith. He was a forebearer of you, one of the first disciples in many. I offer to you my motherly blessing. I pray for each one of you. I take your needs and your petitions to my son.
St. Paul’s Words:
Brothers . . . sisters . . . I come to you bearing the peace of Christ, He who sent me. You are followers of Him, as I was and am, and now I have the privilege of serving Him in our heavenly home. Sisters and brothers, let me tell you, God asked me to go out to preach His word, to teach. But as you well know, I was not always His servant, nor His friend, nor His disciple, but once I was His persecutor, His executioner. For it was my practice to travel from city to city, in Damascus and beyond, and bring suffering and torture to those who followed The Way. I was quite proud. What a service I was doing to my Jewish forefathers by destroying the lives of these who followed this newfangled religion, this cult, if you would. Imagine, exclaiming that the messiah had come to this earth as a babe in a stable! It was an insult to all I had known and all I had been taught. And so I went about my business and was careful to report to the leaders of the synagogues about the tortures and the executions I had overseen. And I myself was responsible for the very martyrdom of Stephen, who you venerate.
I did not have the gift of visiting with our Lord in His body as did His apostles . . . Peter, James, those who were near to Him, His beloved. But I was graced and blessed when one day on my travels, He came to me. His words shook my heart like thunder! The very earth could have swallowed me up in such light and such beauty! And at that moment, I wanted nothing more than to hide my face in shame for what I had done, what I had allowed and condoned, the terror that I had brought to the lives of those who proclaimed the truth. I was not worthy to be in His presence. And He forgave me and He sent me on with a mission.
It is the same now. There are many in the world today who sin and fall away from God, who have causes that are not the true cause of God, the cause of love, Christian charity, truth. And as I did see the truth, so too will all people one day see the truth, the lamb who was led to the slaughter. And like me, they too will see their souls and feel the quaking of their hearts when they see how they have offended God. And like me, perhaps the most wretched of sinners, these too shall be forgiven and given the grace to go out, to love, to serve, to be an example of Christ.
It is such joyful, joyful news! For it is easy to become dismayed at the evils that inflict terrible suffering on this world, but fear not and have joy! Maintain your love, your relationship with God. He does not abandon even the most wretched. He lifts up those who are lost. He comes to save the weak. I offer to you this as encouragement for days that are difficult. Know that He will lift you up as He lifted up His most lowly servants and the most wretched of sinners.
On that day, my life became much different. Stricken and unable to see, I wallowed in my own pain, the pain of my soul. How is it that I had failed God? I was zealous for God. I thought that I knew what God wanted from me. In my own imaginings, I had decided what God wanted and I had gone off on my own crusade in the name of God. This is not what He required of me. This is what my will had created and had decided that it was true. Everything I knew was turned upside down.
I changed my life on that day and I was most privileged to come to know many of good people who belonged to The Way, the Christian faith. At first I was not accepted. “This is Saul, the persecutor! This is the one who killed our children and our fathers, and he . . . he should come to be a Christian!” Truly I tell you, there were many who did not believe that I had been converted in the heart. “This must be a trick, sorcery!” And yet there were others who fell to their knees proclaiming, “God is alive, for what a miracle! He was the most wretched and even he now calls Jesus, Lord.”
I befriended a man who loved the Lord, who was the dearest, dearest friend to the Lord, His brother John, and he taught me Christian love and charity. He taught me the truth . . . that God loves us . . . the God of my zealousness, of the old ways of the pharisees, the God of justice, of anger, of punishment. What a terrible, terrible, terrible limit to place on the Oh Holy One. He is a God of love and of mercy and of justice and of goodness and peace. And so I came to know Christ as my Lord.
Led by the Spirit, I went out to proclaim these truths that had been revealed to me in a miraculous and wonderful way. And I shared with all peoples, traveling much, one truth. In all that I shared, in all of the gospels, in all of the writings, in all of your bible, there is but one truth: Jesus is Lord. He loves you. He died that you might be free and He welcomes you. He wants you. He desires you. You are the children of God. You are the promised nation, the descendants of Abraham, they who would receive the messiah. Blessed are you who believe. Blessed are you who have faith. It took a miracle for me to see God as He is. You have faith though you have not seen. You truly will be glorified much more than I in our father’s house.
In all of my travels and in my journeys and in the difficulties I faced . . . those who would mock me, both those in the Jewish community and those who belonged to The Way . . . in imprisonment and in freedom, I tried always, always to say but one sentence each day in each situation, for it was all that needed to be said. “Jesus, I give this to you.” What a powerful, powerful statement that was in my life. “Jesus, I give this to you.” You trust that when you call upon the name of Jesus, He is with you. And it is so and He receives your prayer and the gift that one little child would give in every suffering and in every joy is taken up into His arms and becomes a great joy to Him.
And so I encourage you in your times of struggle and strife, “Jesus, I give all this to you.” Do not forget this. You will know great peace if only you allow Him to work in you, to do His will through you. I did nothing in my years as a missionary. I simply allowed God to work through me and to do His will, what truly was His will, not what I thought He had willed for me, not what my friends told me He willed for me, not even what my closest loved ones told me He willed for me to do, but what He wanted, desired, needed, and asked of me.
All people are capable of knowing this. It is as simple as listening to the silence . . . the silence of your heart. For there the secrets, the truths, the word of God is revealed. All people are capable of knowing His will. And if only you would give up your lives to it, you would find a peace and a grace and a mercy that is greater than all things on earth, and is worth forsaking your very life for it.
I recall on one of my journeys, I was traveling with my companions and I came into a city where I was known as a persecutor. I had visited that city many times to drag away the Christians there in chains. And I and my companions, we preached there and there were many conversions by the grace of God, but there was nothing more influential in the entire course of my life than one conversation with one man that I met in this city.
Even after my conversion, I was a proud man and I struggled for my entire life against this pride. And one day while preaching, I cited the writings that a dear, dear friend of mine had kept in his journal about his relationship with God and with the Christ. He had written, “I dearly wish that my beloved children would know Christ as I know Him, would accept Him as the messiah, in that they too would be saved. However, I trust that they will be saved because I believe and I know that Christ saves all, and He came to save those who know Him and who are distant, those who are far and who are near, the Jews and the Gentiles, all people, as He is king of heaven and earth for all time . . . for all people.”
And I used this for the basis of my sermon that day and I spoke about Jesus as the king and the messiah that had been promised. And I cited well from the old scriptures . . . Isaiah, Jeremiah . . . these books that I had come to know as a scholar, and the beloved Torah . . . the law, the word . . . what I had known as a child to be the truth. And how proud of myself I was. “Truly,” I thought, “many people will be converted because of me.”
And then I met this man. He approached me after I had finished this sermon and he looked into my eyes. And he spoke to me.
“Paul, what do you desire?”
“Well, my Lord,” I replied.
“Paul, what do you desire?”
“My Lord. My Christ.”
“Paul, what do you desire?”
And he turned and he was gone. And I thought, “How foolish! The ramblings of an old man! Of course I desired my Christ!” And then, I realized that I had not. In my pride and in my arrogance, I had designed a situation where I would be glorified, where all who would look to me as their teacher would say, “He is good. He is a follower. Certainly he will be in heaven!” Again, even after accepting my weaknesses, I had fallen prey to the very thing that had kept me from knowing Jesus to begin with, the pride of self-glorification and righteousness.
And I thought long and hard that day, and I believe that this is a good lesson for you, for the world as it is now. For as I see it, there are three kinds of people who follow Christ. One follows Christ with all of his heart, all of his soul, all of his mind, and gives up all things for the beloved, for He who gave up His very life for him. And I believe that these are those who are most holy and most virtuous. The second preaches well as I did, speaks of his love for Christ, worships Christ, but alas it is a show. For the truly devoted are humble and meek of heart and seek not glory for themselves, but the glory and graces of God. And then there is a third, those who proclaim their Christianity, their faith, but God slips away from them, for they have not the time to pray nor the time to worship. They haven’t the time to think of God or matters of faith and the spiritual life, for there is so many things to do . . . a family, a job, a home to care for. Where is God?
“Paul, what do you desire?” And so I ask you, what do you desire? These words that meant so much to me in my life, that made me realize that twice . . . twice, not once . . . I had not the mind to serve God. What do you desire?
I hope that my words are an encouragement to you. I wish only to tell you of His goodness and His mercy and His love and above all else, His forgiveness. What do you desire in your lives? May it be Christ Jesus. May it be the messiah. May it be the peace of God, the very heart of God. For in this way, you shall be fulfilled. You will know His grace and His love in a way that you cannot imagine, and the cares of your life will melt away as you look forward to joining Him in the place He has prepared for you, and the struggles that you endure will be but joys, the thorns of a rose lifted up high to our crucified Lord. I assure you, there is no suffering too great for the precious treasure of heaven. There is nothing that you could endure that is too terrible or too frightening for that reward. God calls each of us to a different mission. Whatever He calls you to do, whatever He asks of you, do it with love and with gratitude, for your reward is more precious than you can imagine.
Do all that you can for the Lord that you might join Him, and your brothers and sisters in the church, in heaven. It is a most, most beautiful place, a place of love and of goodness, of unending joy. And there you will come to know the Lord as He truly is, more beautiful than any of His creations, more holy than any imaginings. There is no words I can offer to you to describe the true Lord. You know but a piece. How Christ must have hid His glory! The very thought of Him existing on this earth as a man-God, it baffles me! For He is so glorified in heaven, I cannot lift my eyes to look upon His face! Do all that you can to serve Him. Do all that you can to join me here. Remember, you will be forgiven when you fall and loved unconditionally, and no price is too great for the pearl, the jewel, the treasure that God has in store for you.
I thank you for listening to me this day and it is my pleasure and my joy to be with you in this way. Give thanks to God for He has allowed this. He has made this possible through His holy mother who is our intercessor, who is our mother, who loves us dearly. I give to you my prayers and my aid as your Christian brother. Know that I pray for you and I will recommend you to the Father as brothers and sisters of Christ.