St. Luke tells about the conversion, then missioning, of St. Paul on three different occasions: Acts 9, 22 and 26. Though the number of details which change in these three accounts is great, there is one repeated phrase which runs through them all: Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me? Clearly, to cite the same phrase three times, in a literary world where one does not repeat oneself without need, points to the importance of this phrase. Moreover, one is struck by the way Jesus identifies himself to Saul/Paul: Jesus does not point to himself as Lord, or as Messiah or as Son of God or Son of Man. He prefers to identify himself as the one persecuted by Paul. Of course, Jesus is years dead when the conversion of Paul takes place. Thus, the emphasis of Jesus, in now speaking with Paul, is on his relationship with the believers whom Paul is persecuting. Jesus, for all his titles which point to his function or to his being, wishes the world to know of his very close bond with those for whom he died and who committed themselves to him in Baptism. Ever after his conversion experience, Paul was conscious, as his letters show, of the dignity of every member of the church of Jesus. He knew each person in his full dignity and gave him corresponding respect and honor. Jesus had already laid the ground for Paul’s way of thinking: whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me.
John Kilgallen, S.J.