THE CONVERSION OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE
A reading from the Acts of the Apostles 22:3-16
3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city. At the feet of Gamaliel I was educated strictly in our ancestral law and was zealous for God, just as all of you are today. 4 I persecuted this Way to death, binding both men and women and delivering them to prison.5 Even the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify on my behalf. For from them I even received letters to the brothers and set out for Damascus to bring back to Jerusalem in chains for punishment those there as well.
6 “On that journey as I drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me. 7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ 8 I replied, ‘Who are you, sir?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.’ 9 My companions saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who spoke to me. 10 I asked, ‘What shall I do, sir?’ The Lord answered me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told about everything appointed for you to do.’ 11 Since I could see nothing because of the brightness of that light, I was led by hand by my companions and entered Damascus.
12 “A certain Ananias, a devout observer of the law, and highly spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me and stood there and said, ‘Saul, my brother, regain your sight.’ And at that very moment I regained my sight and saw him. 14 Then he said, ‘The God of our ancestors designated you to know his will, to see the Righteous One, and to hear the sound of his voice; 15 for you will be his witness[a] before all to what you have seen and heard. 16 Now, why delay? Get up and have yourself baptized and your sins washed away, calling upon his name.’
Everyone is familiar with the conversion of Saul, the zealous persecutor of the followers of Jesus, to Paul, the zealous advocate of Jesus. Reading it over and over again, I am still in awe of the power of Jesus to convert anyone, even the worst sinner. I have always prayed for this powerful conversion for my family members. Nothing is impossible with God, and so I continue to hope and pray.
It is interesting how Paul encountered Jesus in a flash of light, and he then became aware of how blind he was to Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Ananias, a quiet, devout follower of Jesus in his private life and highly held by the Jews in his public life, was given the formidable task of forgiving, healing, and baptizing Saul. Ananias was not sure about Saul, afraid that he would be persecuted by him. Yet he did what God told him to do.
Again, Jesus picked two different people to spread His message. Both Paul and Ananias had to give up their former lives, become the persons that God had wanted them to become and both had to trust in God.
We are called to change according to God’s will for His Kingdom. God does not change. He will work through a Saul, through an Ananias and through us. May we have the courage to welcome the new life God has planned for us.
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