Part one: Paul said to the people, "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.
Part two: "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.’
This Weekend is Saturday the 25 January, the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul, and Sunday the 26 January, beginning the Third Week of Ordinary Time.
The monks of the Abbey of Keur Moussa sing Aveugle de Coeur: “Blind in heart since my birth, I come to you, Light of the world…. Let me live as a child of light” As I listen, I ask the Lord to open my eyes to what he wants me to see. I ask God to shine his light into my life.
This week’s readings from the Gospel of Mark have told the story of the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry. We have heard about his initial miracles which were so wonderful, that huge numbers of people followed him. From these followers he chose the twelve disciples, to be the twelve founding pillars of his ministry. Of course, the story doesn’t end there, and through the gospels the disciples are often lacking in understanding and wisdom which leads them to make terrible decisions – like Judas in his betrayal of Jesus, and Peter in his denial of Jesus. But Peter and the others are eventually reconciled with the Risen Jesus. The conversion of the anti-Christian zealot, Saul, to the apostle of Christ, Paul, is similar in this respect. The story in this weekend’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, is only a beginning: Saul took some time to become Paul and some time to begin to understand that his call to preach -- to Jew and to Gentile -- the saving power of Jesus, the Son of God, was something that was a whole life's journey for him. Paul says in his Letter to the Church in Galatia, "God set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace ... Three years after (the Damascus Road conversion), I went up to Jerusalem." The preparation for this moment of his conversion was his whole life. This feast has been celebrated in the Church since the sixth century but became universal in the twelfth century. Today’s reading is from the Acts of the Apostles.
This is a great story - God intervening dramatically in the life of Saul. And just as remarkable is Saul’s immediate response ‘What am I to do Lord?’ Perhaps this blinding light was the only way to get Saul’s attention. And Saul responds simply, but wholeheartedly. How does this make you feel?
Have there been times in your life when you have asked ‘What am I to do Lord’? Is there a desire in you to respond to God as wholeheartedly as Saul?
Listen to how the story continues and reflect on your own responses to God’s invitation.
Saul, now called Paul, is asked to witness to what he has seen and heard. Take some time to talk to Jesus about how you desire to witness to what you know of him – in whatever form that takes in your life.