The Persecutors – Good News for October 5

5 10 2010

St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians 1:13-24

Brothers and Sisters,

You heard of my former way of life in Judaism, how I persecuted the Church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it, and progressed in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my race, since I was even more a zealot for my ancestral traditions. But when he, who from my mother’s womb had set me apart and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him to the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were Apostles before me; rather, I went into Arabia and then returned to Damascus.

Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to confer with Cephas and remained with him for fifteen days. But I did not see any other of the Apostles, only James the brother of the Lord. (As to what I am writing to you, behold, before God, I am not lying.) Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was unknown personally to the churches of Judea that are in Christ; they only kept hearing that “the one who once was persecuting us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” So they glorified God because of me.

The Daily Path: St. Paul’s letter is an incredible testimony to how the grace of God can work in anyone. One minute “Saul” is brutally persecuting Christians. The next he is miraculously transformed into Paul, preaching about the Christ, building believers across many lands. He even pleads to the truth of his witness!

There was a time when I, too, persecuted Our Lord’s followers. I didn’t attack them or cause bodily harm as “Saul” did before his conversion. But for many years I largely denied my faith and ignored the opportunity to live in Christ. I found it easier to mock my Catholic roots than choose the harder road of embracing God. I believe that God looks for the most difficult nuts to crack so that his power and complete love can be more evident for all to see.

My Road to Damascus – Good News for January 25

25 01 2009

Acts 22:3-16

Paul addressed the people in these words, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city. At the feet of Gamaliel I was educated strictly in our ancestral law and was zealous for God, just as all of you are today. I persecuted this way to death, binding both men and women and delivering them to prison. Even the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify on my behalf. For from them I even received letters to the brothers and set out for Damascus to bring back to Jerusalem in chains for punishment those there as well.

“On that journey as I drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from the sky suddenly shone  around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ I replied, ‘Who are you, sir?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.’ My companions saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who spoke to me. I asked, ‘What shall I do, sir?’ The Lord answered me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told about everything appointed for you to do.’ Since I could see nothing because of the brightness of that light, I was led by hand by my companions and entered Damascus.

“A certain Ananias, a devout observer of the law, and highly spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me and stood there and said, ‘Saul, my brother, regain your sight.’ And at that very moment I regained my sight and saw him.

Then he said, ‘The God of our ancestors designated you to know his will, to see the Righteous One, and to hear the sound of his voice; for you will be his witness before all to what you have seen and heard. Now, why delay? Get up and have yourself baptized and your sins washed away, calling upon his name.'”

The Daily Path: Three years ago today, God called my name in a loud voice to get my undivided attention. On Saturday, January 25, 2006. I told my wife “You’d better drive me to the Emergency Room. I think I’m having a heart attack.” My life changed forever over the next 24 hours. One minute I’m doing the workaholic thing, the next I’m receiving the Sacrament of the Sick and Dying. In the weeks and months to follow, my health was restored… as was my Faith. I used to joke that I was a “recovering Catholic.” Suddenly I was in God’s recovery mission for my generation of lost Catholics.

What I hadn’t realized until today is that January 25 is the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. I knew there were similarities between Saul and myself in the fact that God acted in dramatic fashion so we would hear Him above all else. I wasn’t thrown off a horse, but I was knocked off the path I’d been following for so long. This serious medical intervention was God’s first action to call me home (the second is detailed in About: Good News To-Go!) Please don’t misinterpret this. I’m no saint and I certainly don’t pretend to have been called to the same place as St. Paul. I’m just another guy trying to keep God close. 

There is one other small thing we have in common: I took the name of Paul for my Confirmation. At the time I thought it was just because I liked the name Paul. Perhaps there was more to that selection than I realized. While Saul got an instant jolt from the Holy Spirit, mine took 36 years after Confirmation to kick in. Better late than never. Thank you, God!

My friends, as you travel your own road to Damascus, listen and look for God at work. He’s calling you home. I just hope your call won’t be as scary as mine was three years ago.