”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.
“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.’
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
The conversion of Paul is such an important event in the history of Christianity that Luke describes it three times in Acts of the Apostles (Acts 9:1-19, 22:3-16, and 26: 9-18).
William James in his classic, The Varieties of Religious Experience, describes the results of conversion: we have a sense that a higher power is grasping us; there is a loss of worry and anxiety; we see truths not known before, or truths become clearer; the world appears more beautiful than before; we have a sense of happiness, even ecstasy.
Isn’t this really a description of what happens when we fall in love? Paul’s conversion—falling in love with Jesus—came suddenly. For most of us it is a slow life-long process. The Greek word for conversion is metanoia, that is, a change in our way of thinking. When we fall in love with Jesus we begin to take on his way of thinking . . . and his way of loving people.
Who and what am I in love with these days?
What type of metanoia is God inviting within me . . . today?
—Fr. Bob Braunreuther, S.J., a New England Jesuit, assists in pastoral ministry at Loyola University Chicago, and is minister of the Arrupe House Jesuit Community.
Today’s feast of the Conversion of St. Paul marks the end of the international week of prayer for Christian Unity. The following ecumenical prayer to ask God for this gift of unity.
Lord Jesus Christ, at the Last Supper you prayed to the Father that all should be one. Send your Holy Spirit upon all who bear your name and walk in your ways. Strengthen our faith in you, and lead us to love one another in humility. Through the intercession of St. Paul we pray for the gifts of unity among our Christian churches. May we take practical steps to bring to life your gifts of unity and peace, grace and hope. Amen!
—The Jesuit Prayer TeamPlease share the Good Word with your friends!