“I was on that journey and nearly at Damascus when ABOUT MIDDAY…” (Acts 22:6, emphasis added).
I have been reflecting on the conversion of Saint Paul over the last few days as it is outlined in Acts 22:3-16.
“…I (Paul) was as full of duty towards God as you are today. I even persecuted this Way to the death, and sent women as well as men to prison in chains as the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify, since they even sent me with letters to their brothers in Damascus. When I set off it was with the intention of bringing prisoners back from there to Jerusalem for punishment.
‘I was on that journey and nearly at Damascus when about midday a bright light from heaven suddenly shone round me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” I answered: Who are you, Lord? and He said to me, “I am Jesus the Nazarene, and you are persecuting me.’…” (Acts 22:3-16).
You see, Saint Paul was determined to please God – he was always ALL IN. He was so determined to please God that he was willing to ensure that others DIED so that he could do the full extent of his responsibilities and he was travelling at that VERY MOMENT to kill more people…
And then – in an instant – on a little old road Saint Paul suddenly heard something and saw something that changed everything!
That was the sort of guy that Saint Paul was – and that is the sort of girl that I am supposed to be.
Saint Paul was an ALL IN kind of guy! He did not appear to do things in half measures. When he persecuted Christians, he persecuted all of them. When he became a Christian, he did not just follow the crowd – he led them!
And God made great use of his attribute of Saint Paul.
In fact, upon reflection, it appears that the very extremity of Saint Paul’s initial misunderstanding of God is the part of his conversion story that make it so enduring, so revolutionary and so inspiring – even twenty centuries after it occurred!
For decades Saint Paul wandered around spreading the Good News of the Lord and he was imprisoned, tortured, scourged and beaten for years and years and years. Though his eyesight was never fully restored after that period of blindness on the road to Damascus, Saint Paul wrote epistles that were sent to the early Christian community and which have become the foundation upon which our Christian doctrine is based. I mean, Saint Paul was an important guy and God made use of him – even after all the killing and murdering that he did…
And that makes me think…
You see, in essence, the story of Saint Paul’s conversion is a story of HOPE!
You see, Christ said, “… ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptised will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons.’” (Mark 16:15-18).
And Saint Paul did an absolute about-face and did just that. He was literally killing Christian men, women and children in one minute and then converting men, women and children to Christianity the next! And it all started in a moment – in an instant – when he decided to be ALL IN… And the moment was so amazing to Saint Paul that he never forgot it… “I was on that journey and nearly at Damascus when ABOUT MIDDAY…” (Acts 22:6, emphasis added).
Because Saint Paul understood Christ – through the power of the Holy Spirit – in an instant… He understood the words that Saint Francis de Sales would later speak… “He could have saved the world without shedding His Blood, but that would not have been enough to satisfy the love He bears us.”
And he understood that for a love like his for God, there was much to be done! He agreed with Saint Therese of Lisieux twenty centuries before she was born. Because Saint Therese said, “He knows the extent of your sacrifice. He knows that the sufferings of those you hold dear increase your own; but He has suffered this same martyrdom for our salvation.”
Because Saint Paul knew God and he knew Him in an instant. And that changed everything… Except the extent to which he would apply himself for his God…
That never changed. Saint Paul was always ALL IN!
And so too should I be!
For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.