Wednesday, January 25, 2017
“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” I replied, “Who are you, sir?” And he said to me, “I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.” Acts 22:7-8
We celebrate, today, one of the greatest conversions ever known. The conversion of Saul of Tarsus is so significant that it is given the glorious status of a Feast within our Church. Why? We could certainly come up with many reasons. Let’s look at two of them.
First, Saul’s conversion resulted in one of the greatest evangelists our Church has ever known. Saul, who later was given the name “Paul” by Jesus, was a man of incredible zeal and wholehearted commitment to the faith. He was zealous before becoming a follower of Christ Jesus and he carried that zeal into his conversion giving his all to the proclamation of the Gospel.
His ministry as an Apostle of Christ resulted not only in the foundation of numerous Christian communities, it also resulted in fourteen letters attributed to him or his followers becoming part of our Sacred Scripture. His writings are deep, profound and very personal. His love, zeal and care for the Christian communities he founded shone forth as he was revealed as a true shepherd of God.
Secondly, his conversion comes after a fierce persecution of the newly founded Christian Church. Saul goes forth from town to town, rounding up new Christians and persecuting them. The most well-known account of this persecution is when he consents to the stoning of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, earlier in the Acts of the Apostles.
The Scripture passage quoted above, which comes from the First Reading of the Mass for today, reveals Jesus appearing to Saul asking him why he is persecuting Him. Saul, in a confused manner, does not understand that his persecution of the Church is actually a persecution of Jesus Himself. This revelation Saul receives sets him on a powerful path of conversion.
One truth this reveals is that, at times, we encounter division and even persecution within the Church from one person to another. This should not shock us or undermine our faith. Jesus was quite aware of this fact with St. Paul and chose to use him despite his horrible persecution of Christians. This passage should call us to look at all persecution and discord more as an opportunity than anything. It’s an opportunity for Jesus to bring great good out of something that is deeply painful.
Reflect, today, upon your own experience of discord and division within the Church or even within your own family. Though it is important to acknowledge the pain and hurt this produces, do not lose hope that God can turn all things into good and use everything for His glory.
Lord, I see the hurt, confusion and division within Your Church and even within my own family. I see conflict and discord within the whole of society. As I see and encounter these hardships, give me hope so that I can trust in Your divine plan as You permit all things for Your glory. Jesus, I trust in You.