St Paul was a Pharisee who was a Jew, named Saul who was educated in Jerusalem according to ancestral Law, being zealous for God. Paul was a Pharisee and led the persecution of believers of Christ in Jerusalem. While he was on his way to Damascus to arrest the disciples of Jesus, he fell to the ground and heard a voice, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? Saul asked the voice Who are you, Lord? Jesus replied: I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city and you will be told what you are to do. Saul was zealous about obedience to the Law. He would not accept Jesus as the Lord. Yet, when Jesus spoke to him, Saul called the voice Lord. He instinctively knew it was Jesus. During this whole incident, Saul was struck blind and had to be led to the city where he fasted and prayed for three days. After three days, the Lord sent Ananias to Saul. Ananias was afraid at first because Saul was known as wanting to arrest disciples of Jesus. But Ananias went in obedience. He laid hands on Saul and his blindness was healed. Saul was baptized and ate and regained his strength.
What changed the mind of Saul? What caused his repentance? It was the encounter with the Risen Christ that converted Saul. Several things can be learned from this episode:
- Saul was zealous for the Law to the point of persecuting disciples of Jesus.
- Saul was blinded when he heard the voice of Jesus.
- Saul needed Ananias to lay his hands on Saul so Saul can be healed.
God did not take away the zeal of Saul. Instead, he redirected what Saul had, so Saul can be an instrument… to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel. The encounter with Jesus blinded Saul. Saul had to realize how blind he was with respect to his zeal. As Saul spent three days in fasting and prayer, Ananias, one of the disciples of Jesus prayed over Saul and baptized Saul after he was healed of his blindness.
While our conversion may not be as dramatic as Saul’s and while our work may not be as great as Saul’s, we are still commanded by Jesus in the Gospel today, to Go into the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. What is this good news? That there is always hope for redemption. No matter what evil we had done, what mistakes we had made, whatever happened to us before, there is always hope that God will use these for our good and for his glory. But similar to Saul, part of this call to redemption, is an expectation of suffering for the sake of the name of Jesus. While suffering is not from God, it is part of life. God uses it to form us according to his will as part of our journey towards him.
There is always redemption as long as there is life in us. The only hopeless case is the one in hell. But when we turn to God in faith, he fills us with hope so we can encounter the divine love of God. So what are you experiencing now? Are you like Paul, zealous for something that is not according to God’s will. Have you been pursuing something that is dead and does not give life? And have you in the process of doing so, harmed people because of misplaced zeal? There is hope when we repent. Come back to Christ, through his Church. Confess your sins and admit your blindness. Let the priest pray over you to remove the blindness in your eyes, so you may see the will of God for you and the inheritance he has planned for you.
Lord, reveal the misguided zeal I have. Let me know and realize that I pursue things that are dead and will not help me. Heal me Lord, forgive me. Heal also those I have hurt because of my misplaced zeal. Let me turn back to you and open my eyes so I can see your will and walk back towards you. St Paul, give me the zeal for the Lord’s will. Teach me to turn to Jesus and obey him.