“Beloved: I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he considered me trustworthy in appointing me to the ministry. I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and arrogant, but I have been mercifully treated…” (1 Tim 1:12-13)
In the month of October our parish will present a Pauline study on grace. This will coincide with the introduction of the theme for our year of faithful inquiry entitled “Your Grace is Enough for Me, O Lord” which is a paraphrase taken from 2 Corinthians 12:9.
Even before this formal announcement, this theme had already made itself known to us over the last few Sundays in our Gospel readings. Two weeks ago Jesus instructed us to conduct our lives with humility. He gave us the parable of the man who takes a lower place on earth so that he may be raised to a higher place in heaven. This raising up only occurs through grace. Last Sunday Christ asked us to renounce all that we have so that we might be his disciples. Yet why do we give these things up except so we might gain a greater portion of grace? And what discipleship do we seek if not the discipleship of grace? All Christian roads start from and lead back to grace; every destination of the Christian spiritual life finds its starting point in baptism. “Your Grace is Enough for Me, O Lord” is not simply a clever theme, it is our wake-up call, a trumpet blast in the ears of those slumbering through the walk of life, lazily following or avariciously chasing after the things of the world which lead the soul away from God and lessen its desire for a life of grace.
To help us get ready for our examination of the life and essential teachings of St. Paul, we place on our bulletin cover for this 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time a work by the Italian Baroque master, Luca Giordano, entitled The Conversion of St. Paul (1690). Giordano was a painter-artisan; he mastered the epic of Tintoretto and the illumination of Caravaggio, all while his mature baroque anticipated the ethereal tones of the Rococo. His painting was majestic and fast making him the perfect artist for painting spaces of worship: walls and domes in lively fresco.
In the full image (not seen here) of the Conversion, Paul seems as an Alexander the Great amidst a battle scene with twisting figures, human and equine, falling here and their collapsing upon each other, while tack and garments are tossed about as flags in a mighty wind. A great storm from above falls upon the mass of bodies and the light of heaven emerges through dark clouds throwing all into disarray and blinding the zealous Pharisee named Saul. While many of the figures cover their faces from the light, the man to be called “Paul” puts out one hand to break his fall while the other hand reaches out to heaven as his eyes look directly into the divine light above him. Giordano shows Paul accepting his ministry with immediacy, turning his usual zealousness without hesitation in the sole direction of Christ.
–Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services