On January 25th, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Conversion of Paul, Apostle. In the Office of Readings for the day, there’s a wonderful homily about St. Paul written by St. John Chrysostom (c. 347-407). He says:
“The most important thing of all to him [Paul], however, was that he knew himself to be loved by Christ. Enjoying this love, he considered himself happier than anyone else; were he without it, it would be no satisfaction to be the friend of principalities and powers. He preferred to be thus loved and be the least of all, or even to be among the damned, than to be without that love and be among the great and honored.” [bold added]
This is incredible to me because, nowadays, most ultra-conservative Catholics (and ultra-conservative, orthodox members of any religion) consider themselves to be among the “great and honored” since they are so favored to be members of the “one, true faith.” People who are outsiders are viewed as damned.
Paul would have been happy to be among the damned as long as he knew himself to be loved by the Lord. To me, this means “damned” in the eyes of human beings – since anyone who truly knows the love of Christ, cannot possibly be damned by God.
May this bring a sense of relief and peace to anyone who feels judged by human beings for religious/spiritual beliefs. Only God can truly judge our heart and our intentions. He loves us unconditionally – and knows whether we strive to love Him in return.
May we continue our journey of growth in faith, hope and love. “Love never fails. . . . And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13: 8, 13)