Friday, January 25, 2013

St. Paul's Conversion: A Reflection

St. Paul started his life as Saul, a Pharisee, someone who kept the Law of the Old Testament with great diligence. He had studied under the rabbi Gamaliel and knew the Law inside and out. 

How much time do you spend studying the Bible? How might you incorporate Bible study into your daily or weekly schedule? 

Saul honestly believed that the first Christians were breaking the Law and blaspheming God, but he judged without knowing the whole story, without listening to what the apostles were truly saying. Unlike his teacher Gamaliel, he was ready to condemn. 

When have you made snap judgments about others? How did you form your judgments? Did you seek to know the whole story? How might your judgments change if you really listened? 

Saul's zeal led him to persecute the early Church. He stood by, watched, and approved as St. Stephen was stoned to death. 

Have you ever watched someone being treated unjustly? Did you interfere, or did you stand by in silence? Why? 

Then Saul began his own violent campaign, issuing murderous threats and dragging Christians out of their homes and off to prison in chains. 

Does violence ever solve problems? Why or why not? 

One day on his way to Damascus, where he was determined to round up more Christians, Saul had an experience that changed his entire outlook...his entire life. A bright light flashed around him, and a voice cried out, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 

How does God communicate with you? 

“Who are you, sir?” Saul replied. 

Who is God to you? 

“I am Jesus the Nazorean Whom you are persecuting.” 

Saul was persecuting the Church, yet Jesus said that he was persecuting Him. Reflect on the unity of Christ and the Church. 

Saul, blinded and probably terrified asked, “What shall I do, sir?” 

What must you do to respond to Jesus? 

Jesus replied, “Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told about everything appointed for you to do.” 

Think about a time when Jesus has shown you a clear path. 

Saul, unable to see anything, did as he was told. His bewildered companions led him into the city. 

Do you obey God so readily? 

A Christian man named Ananias lived in Damascus. Jesus called his name in a vision, and Ananias responded, “Here I am, Lord.” 

How do you make yourself available to the Lord? 

Jesus instructed, “Get up and go to the street called Straight and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is there praying, and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, that he may regain his sight.” 

Reflect on your prayer life. 

Ananias was startled, for he know that Saul had been persecuting Christians. He replied, “Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man, what evil things he has done to Your holy ones in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to imprison all who call upon Your name.” 

Ananias knew Jesus so well that he wasn't afraid to present his concerns. Do you know Jesus that well? 

Jesus explained, “Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of Mine to carry My name before Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel, and I will show him what he will have to suffer for My name.” 

What is your mission in God's kingdom? Are you willing to suffer for Jesus? Why or why not? 

Ananias obeyed. Going to the house where Saul was praying, Ananias laid his hands upon Saul and said, “Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus Who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 

Notice that Ananias called Saul, who had been a violent enemy, “my brother”. How do you treat those who mistreat you? 

Immediately something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see once again. He was baptized, ate (probably a reference to receiving the Eucharist), and regained his strength. 

Reflect on your experiences of the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist. 

From that day forth Saul was a Christian who spread the Gospel wherever he went, under any circumstances, and with great fervor. 

How do you spread the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ? 

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