THE SERVANT GENERAL
OUR THEME FOR 2014
THE CONVERSION OF SAUL
Today’s reading: Acts 9:1-20
met Christ. Out to arrest and imprison Christians,
a light from the sky flashed, he fell to the ground and heard
a voice saying, “I am Jesus” (v.5b). Then he got
to know Jesus. He was brought to Damascus, where “for
three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank.”
(v.9). Jesus had told him, “Now get up and go into the
city and you will be told what you must do.” (v.6).
During the three days, certainly Jesus spoke to him and revealed
himself more to him, and brought him to faith in him, culminating
in his being “baptized” (v.18b). He also learned
more about the Way as “he stayed some days with the
disciples in Damascus” (v.19b). He was starting to live
Christ. Having experienced total transformation,
“he began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues,
that he is the Son of God.” (v.20). He started to share
two realities that are very important. First, the experience
of having a personal encounter with Jesus can be, or should
be, one of total transformation, a true metanoia,
a complete turnaround, from black to white, from blindness
to true sight. Second, we must never give up on anyone. We
must never consider a person unworthy, or undeserving because
of being such a dreadful sinner, or hopeless because of being
such an intense opponent of the faith.
consider the case of Saul. He “was breathing murderous
threats against the disciples of the Lord” (v.1). A
short time later he was already proclaiming Jesus in the synagogues.
Saul was spending his whole time and energy against the faith,
even asking the high priest “for letters to the synagogues
in Damascus, that, if he should find any men and women who
belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem
in chains.” (v.2). A short time later he was in those
synagogues, but as among those who belonged to the Way. He
would go on to spend his whole life proclaiming Jesus. Saul
was blind to the truth of the gospel, and this was brought
to significance as “he could see nothing” (v.8b)
and “for three days he was unable to see” (v.9a).
But when Ananias laid hands on him (v.17b), “immediately
things like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his
sight.” (v.18a). Saul was in a wretched situation, unable
to see and “he neither ate nor drank.” (v.9b).
But after Ananias told him about his commission from Jesus,
“he got up and was baptized, and when he had eaten,
he recovered his strength.” (v.18b-19a).
met Jesus (v.5), was told by Ananias about his commission
from Jesus (v.15-16), was baptized in the Spirit through the
imposition of hands by Ananias (v.17), had the scales removed
from his eyes and began to see (v.18), underwent formation
with the disciples (v.19b), and began to do the work of evangelization
(v.20). This is what happens through our renewal programs
(CLS and LCS) and integration of people into community or
Saul’s conversion was through a direct intervention
of Jesus. It is always through the intervention of Jesus,
but unlike Saul’s case (a very rare case, as he was
very special, becoming an apostle by Jesus’ own appointment),
the intervention happens through human instruments. That’s
us. We need to share Christ, so that people
would meet Christ and move on to live
Christ. But even in Saul’s case, after the
direct intervention of Jesus on the road to Damascus, Jesus
still used human instruments. He said to 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 today tells us the same thing. Get up and go. He might
not be as specific as in Saul’s case. But he could be
saying to us, get up from your desk at the office and go talk
with your co-worker. Get up from your bed and go share the
good news with your neighbor. Get up from your parish service
and go into the streets and knock on doors of houses. Further
in Saul’s case, Jesus also used the disciples in Damascus
to share the faith more with him (v.19b).
One more thing. This story of the conversion of Saul also
points to our theme for this year. Saul did evil things to
the “holy ones in Jerusalem.” (v.13b). “Your
holy ones” here literally means “your saints.”
To be men and women who belong to the Way (v.2b) is to be
called to holiness. We are saints.
be disciples, those who are called and commissioned, is to
be witnesses. To be empowered by the Spirit is for the purpose
of witnessing (see Acts 1:8). In Paul’s case, Jesus
designated him to be “a chosen instrument of mine to
carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and Israelites”
(v.15). In doing so, “he will have to suffer for my
name.” (v.16). Paul was ultimately martyred. The men
and women of the Way also suffered, many of them martyrdom.
Saul breathed murderous threats against them, and he brought
them to Jerusalem in chains (v.2c). They were persecuted.
As they were holy ones who were other Christs, Jesus identified
with them. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”
(v.5b). We are called to be witnesses to
Jesus, and as such, we are martyrs.
looks not only to our personal transformation, not only to
meeting him and beginning to live him, but to share him. We
are called to mission. Jesus told Ananias
to get up and go to Saul (v.11). Jesus commissioned Saul to
be the apostle to the Gentiles (v.15). When we proclaim the
faith to a world in darkness, we encounter opposition. We
encounter in fact the Prince of Darkness himself. We become
engaged in spiritual warfare. We can expect to experience
evil things that men do to God’s holy ones (v.13). We
enter into the fight between good and evil. We are
Who is a true Christian? He is one who has met Jesus, is living
Jesus, and is sharing Jesus. Who is a true Christian? He is
a saint, a martyr and a warrior.