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.

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Ring! Ring! – Good News for January 25

25 01 2010

Acts of the Apostles 9:1-22

Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains.

On his  journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He said, “Who are you, sir?”

The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”

The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, for they heard the voice but could see no one. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus. For three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank.

There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias, and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.”

The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is there praying, and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, that he may regain his sight.”

But Ananias replied, “Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man, what evil things he has done to your holy ones in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to imprison all who call upon your name.”

But the Lord said to him, “Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel, and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name.”

So Ananias went and entered the house; laying his hands on him, he said, “Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. He got up and was baptized, and when he had eaten, he recovered his strength.

He stayed some days with the disciples in Damascus, and he began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. All who heard him were astounded and said, “Is not this the man who in Jerusalem ravaged those who call upon this name, and came here expressly to take them back in chains to the chief priests?” But Saul grew all the stronger and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus, proving that this is the Christ.

The Daily Path: The story of St. Paul’s journey to Damascus always leaves me marveling about how God goes about business. Time and again we read about how the most unlikely become his dedicated servants.

Perhaps overlooked amidst the awe of this account is the courage displayed by Ananias.

“Ring. Ring.”

“Hi, God. How’s the family? Glad to hear it. What can I do for you?”

“You want me to WHAT? Saul? THE Saul? The guy who’s running around killing people like ME? Boss, are you feeling okay today?”

“Alright, alright. I hear you. Just checking. I’ll do what you ask.”

“And, uh… you’re sure he’s on board with this instrument thing? Right. Okay. Mmm, hmm. Gotcha. I’ll head down to Straight Ave. right away and take care of the matter. I’ll call you when it’s taken care of. What’s that you say? Oh yeah, I guess I don’t need to call back. You’ll already know.”

I think we all have to display a little of that Ananias courage when living our faith. We may not get hauled off in chains if we express our beliefs and spirituality, but I’ve experienced times when I have kept my faith hidden so as to avoid “persecution” of those I would call friends and associates.

“What do you mean you can’t go to the game? Church? When did you become a holy roller?”

“A blog about being Catholic? Ooooh, you gonna preach to me?”

“Why is religion suddenly so important to you? It never mattered before!”

Perhaps picking up the phone when God calls is the easy part. The next step presents the biggest challenge. That’s when accessing a little of the radical grace inside of us becomes so important. The name I took at Confirmation was “Paul”. Perhaps I should have selected Ananias.

Room to Chat: Father, help me to always accept what you ask and have the courage to comply.





Who Are You, Sir? – Good News for May 1

1 05 2009

Acts 9:1-20

Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains. 

On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He said, “Who are you, sir?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.” 

The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, for they heard the voice but could see no one. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus. For three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank.

There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias, and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” 

The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is there praying, and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, that he may regain his sight.”

But Ananias replied, “Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man, what evil things he has done to your holy ones in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to imprison all who call upon your name.” 

But the Lord said to him, “Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel, and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name.” 

So Ananias went and entered the house; laying his hands on him, he said, “Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. He got up and was baptized, and when he had eaten, he recovered his strength.

He stayed some days with the disciples in Damascus, and he began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.

The Daily Path: I love this amazing story of redemption, never tiring of its ending.

“Saul” remains all around us to this day. He goes by many names, has many faces and persecutes in many ways. We all travel the Road to Damascus. Seems that some of us get more of a jolt than others while traveling along. I’m grateful that the Lord found a moment to zap me into an awakening.

How’s your trip going? Perhaps you’ve had a small wake-up call already. Did you to think to ask: “Who are you, sir?” Maybe it’s time to join the Way.

Room to Chat: Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.





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.