Today is Wednesday the 25th of January, the Conversion of St Paul.
The Kyiv Chamber Choir, sing the Creed: “I believe in one God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.” As I start this prayer today, can I join in with this strong, almost exuberant expression of faith? Can I begin by declaring my faith in my God, my creator, my heavenly Father?
(Lyrics currently unavailable)
Today’s reading is from the Acts of the Apostles.
‘I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated strictly according to our ancestral law, being zealous for God, just as all of you are today. I persecuted this Way up to the point of death by binding both men and women and putting them in prison, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify about me. From them I also received letters to the brothers in Damascus, and I went there in order to bind those who were there and to bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment.
‘While I was on my way and approaching Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone about me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” I answered, “Who are you, Lord?” Then he said to me, “I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.” Now those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me. I asked, “What am I to do, Lord?” The Lord said to me, “Get up and go to Damascus; there you will be told everything that has been assigned to you to do.” Since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, those who were with me took my hand and led me to Damascus.
‘A certain Ananias, who was a devout man according to the law and well spoken of by all the Jews living there, came to me; and standing beside me, he said, “Brother Saul, regain your sight!” In that very hour I regained my sight and saw him. Then he said, “The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear his own voice; for you will be his witness to all the world of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you delay? Get up, be baptized, and have your sins washed away, calling on his name.”
Today is the feast of the conversion of St Paul. Here is his account of that transformational experience on the road to Damascus. It might be more dramatic than your own experience of conversion!
For most of us, conversion is not a one-off event. However, it might include significant step changes in how we view our lives and relationship with God. Do you have a conversion story? What highlight in your story comes to mind?
The way Jesus announces himself is significant: “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting”. This Jesus is humble, and he is suffering with those who suffer. Do you recognise this Jesus in your own story? What is this Jesus wanting you to know?
There are times when we’d like God to act powerfully to fix the problems of the world. Paul’s conversion story includes so much harm being done to innocent people and finally this intervention by Jesus . . . As you listen again, wonder at how God does not and does intervene in human affairs . . .
God uses another person, Ananias, to help Paul see anew and see differently . . . who has been Ananias to you; who has helped you to see differently? . . . Give thanks for their role in your life . . .
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.