Bp. Mark J. Seitz Conversion of St. Paul – St Paul Vicariate Diocesan Centenary Celebration
January 25, 2014 Cathedral of St. Patrick
The Church of El Paso: Ever Ancient, Ever New
This month I completed another year. It was a big one! Now I am 60 years old! I don’t know how that happened, but I guess I am now a senior citizen. I still feel young, but mi hair—or lack of it—betrays me.
But when I consider the age of the Church here in El Paso, which is celebrating 100 years; when we consider that the Sacraments of the Church have been celebrated here for more than 400 years; when we note that the Church has been serving the world for nearly 2,000 years, I feel younger once again.
The truth is that the Church after all these years is not old. She always remains young just as does her Lord, because the Church is nothing more than the Body of Christ, and he never grows old.
We can understand better when we reflect about the Feast we celebrate today, the Conversion of St. Paul. Saul (this was his name before his conversion) saw the Church as simply a human institution, a group of people following strange and heretical doctrines. How surprised he must have been when, in the midst of his journey to Damascus, the Church spoke to him in the person of Jesus Christ! The Lord was not dead; he had risen and made his dwelling among his community, the Church.
As we are taught in the Book of Revelation, “Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” Therefore it doesn’t matter how many years the Church goes on; she is always a Church that is young and full of life.
Oh, you may be thinking to yourselves that you thought this experience of Paul on the way to Damascus was simply an encounter between him and Jesus and had nothing to do with the community of the Church. But consider what Christ says to Paul. He says, “Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Who is suffering persecution? The Church! Furthermore, who is it that prays for Saul when he arrives, blind and confused, to Damascus? The Church! Who cures Saul? A member of the Church! Who Baptizes Saul? A leader of the Church!
Therefore, as we celebrate the Centenary of the Diocese we rightly celebrate a great history. We remember many holy families, which through the years have been very dedicated to the Lord; who, alongside many holy Sisters and Priests, have built up the Church in our region. We remember good times and very difficult times that our community of the Church has experienced. And through it all we discover the presence of Christ—always young, always new, always full of hope—caring for and animating the Church.
This same Lord, without doubt, will continue to accompany the Church of El Paso as she makes her pilgrimage into the future. In our time—but I hope not too quickly—we will all grow old; but not the Church! With the help of God she will always remain young, thanks to the constant presence of her Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen!