(Part 218)


May 5, 2017

Today’s reading:  Acts 9:1-20

The story of Saul’s conversion is fascinating. He experienced a 180-degree turnaround in just three days, from “breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord” (v.1a) to being, according to Jesus, “a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and Israelites” (v.15). He was transformed from Saul, responsible for “evil things he has done to your holy ones in Jerusalem” (v.13b), to Paul, that great apostle to the Gentiles.

His conversion was amazing because it is the only instance (or one of very few) where Jesus himself did not use human instruments to initiate the encounter. “On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him.” (v.3). Then Jesus spoke directly to him. No, not just to his heart, but he distinctly “heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’” (v.4).

What do we learn from all this? We learn important aspects of effective evangelization.

First, we must never give up on anyone, no matter how seemingly absorbed in the world or even being anti-Church. Ananias had great reservations when told by Jesus to go to Saul and lay hands on him. “Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man” (v.13a). But oftentimes the greatest sinners, when converted, become the most zealous disciples. It is up to Jesus, not us, to decide whom he wants to touch.

Second, Jesus sends people to help bring renewal to those whom he intends to touch (in Saul’s case, whom he had already touched). He told Ananias, “Get up and go to the street called Straight and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul.” (v.11a). Jesus can be very specific. Might Jesus ask you to go to your office mate, to your neighbor, or to your best friend? Jesus gives us the privilege of being his instruments of transformation and renewal.

Third, meeting Jesus helps people to overcome their blindness. When Saul had his encounter with Jesus and fell to the ground, “when he opened his eyes he could see nothing” (v.8b). This was a temporary blindness symbolizing the religious blindness of Saul as persecutor of Christians. Many people today are just as blind. Jesus might intend to use us that “he may regain his sight.” (v.12b).

Fourth, in order to be able to proclaim the gospel, we need to “be filled with the holy Spirit.” (v.17d). Empowerment and boldness to witness come from the Holy Spirit. We need to be baptized in the Spirit.

Fifth, with the special call of Jesus comes special suffering. Jesus tells Ananias that “I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name.” (v.16). The authentic disciple and chosen instrument walks the path of the Master, which is the way of the cross. The work is difficult, and oppression, suffering and pain are part of it. We are privileged to suffer in the name of Christ.

Our task is to be instruments by which people will meet Christ, live Christ and share Christ. Just like Saul. He met Christ. “He said, ‘Who are you, sir?’ The reply came, ‘I am Jesus’ (v.5a).” Then he started to live Christ, undergoing baptism and formation. “He got up and was baptized” (v.18b). “He stayed some days with the disciples in Damascus” (v.19b). Then he shared Christ, as “he began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.” (v.20).

Onward to New Evangelization!

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