What does St. Patrick’s Day bring to mind? Many would say shamrocks and parades, or a pinch for forgetting to wear green. For us Irish folks it’s a celebration of our heritage.
But the deeper meaning is that Saint Patrick really lived. He was a Roman, not an Irishman, and he was captured by pirates and held as a slave in Ireland at the age of 16. His days in captivity were spent herding sheep and slopping pigs– and crying out to the God of his youth after having turned his back from Him before his freedom was taken.
God was faithful to the boy, and soon the Holy Spirit prompted Patrick to escape. This began a 200-mile journey on foot to reach the Irish shore and board a ship back to his homeland. What a day when his eyes beheld the shores of home… he was free again! But God had a plan for this young Roman that called him back to Ireland as a missionary to the lost.
Saint Patrick shared the Good News with those who had sought his destruction. He baptized thousands of converts, and the former slave-shepherd became a spiritual shepherd to his enemies before going on to his eternal reward around the year 461. This is the man whose name our holiday bears.
Loving our enemies and desiring that they know Christ as we do is easier when we remember that God uses what they try to do against us for our good—and theirs:
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. Genesis 50:20
Could Saint Patrick have said no to God’s calling? It seems justified after his enslavement as a teenager. But he had experienced God’s love, forgiveness, and rescue in his own life and it had changed him. He would go and be a missionary to his enemies, that many would know that love, forgiveness, and freedom for themselves. This is the calling of every saint–sharing the love of God and the gift of salvation through faith in Christ. Freedom from the burden of sin, and slavery to it, this is true freedom.