Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” So Ananias went and entered the house.
He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)
The events of the First Reading are commonly described as the “Conversion of Saint Paul” and that is true—but only partly true. When Saul sees that celestial light and falls to the ground, he is beginning—not completing—his journey of conversion. That journey would take days, months, even years to “complete,” if “completion” is even possible or desirable when it comes to conversion! And the first stage of that conversion is complete darkness and blindness.
To someone as self-assured and enlightened about matters of religion as Saul of Tarsus that he was perfectly willing to kill others for his beliefs, his journey of faith in Jesus Christ begins with confusion and darkness. It’s almost as if he has to first learn how to “un-see” what he was so used to seeing and believing. He, who was so used to being a leader, has to learn to be led by others, to rely on them, to depend on them, to trust in their guidance and judgment.
And then he has to take risks. Like wondering if those like Ananias whom he had previously threatened and persecuted could forgive him and accept him. Blind, weak, and vulnerable is how Saul, now Paul, begins his journey. Perhaps the only stance from which he could hear and accept God saying: “My grace is sufficient for you; for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
—Fr. Charles Rodrigues, S.J., Associate Novice Director at the Jesuit Novitiate of St. Alberto Hurtado, St. Paul, MN. For more information on Jesuit vocations, click here.
Lord, if there are people or situations that we need to see from a different perspective, help us to do this. Let integrity, honesty, and truth be our lens in viewing the circumstances and relationships in our life. If we need to be less controlling and more sharing of responsibilities with those at work and home, guide us in this direction. Grant us the courage to take risks that will allow us to more fully use our talents and be more faithful to you. And ultimately, Lord, we surrender all to you for “My grace is sufficient for you; for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
—The Jesuit Prayer TeamPlease share the Good Word with your friends!