Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?”
The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. 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 at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.”
But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”
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
Paul’s conversion, described so vividly in today’s reading, has been a familiar story for close to two millennia—told thrice in Acts, and depicted in numerous artworks.
Paul can appear quite contemporary, an intellectual schooled by the Rabbi Gamaliel, a Roman citizen respected and entrusted with protecting the Jewish faith, including from the followers of the Way; and, above all, a driven man busily traveling the countryside on his chosen mission.
In the midst of this busyness, God summons Saul in a dramatic fashion. Three days of blindness follow—a time to listen to the Lord, be led by others, and reflect on what God is calling him to do.
We are unlikely to be thrown from a horse due to a light from the sky, hear the voice of God personally, or be blinded for three days. But, in the midst of our own busyness we face the same questions as Paul: What is God calling me to do? How am I being called to conversion, to transform my life?
―George Penman Sullivan, Jr. is a Jesuit-educated lay leader who helped found Chicago’s Ignatian Volunteer Corps. He and his wife, Dorothy, live in Wilmette IL, and have four children and three grandchildren.
Lord, grant me the ability to become myself—grant me the silence, emptiness and open space that the Word of God can fill, and the Spirit of God can set on fire for the good of others. May I, like Paul, make the time to listen to God’s voice calling me, and may my life be thus transformed and driven by the love of God in all I do.
―George Penman Sullivan, Jr.