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-translation.
God is a skilled potter who is not at all afraid to immerse his hands into the work of molding, kneading and re-shaping us. I pray with this image a lot. It reminds me of something a spiritual advisor once told me: do you not think that God cannot re-mold you, if only you let Him?
We know the story of Paul’s conversion well: his zealousness for the persecution of the new, fledgling followers of Jesus of Nazareth is documented in the Acts of the Apostles. His conversion would have raised red flags. As Ananias says, “Lord, I have heard . . . what evil things he has done.”
Yet it is God, not us, who kneads and molds. Even Paul’s zealousness can be used by God to proclaim the good news. How might God knead and shape us, even the parts of ourselves we can’t imagine being helpful to spread the Gospel?
—Dan Finucane teaches theology and coordinates Campus Ministry activities at St. Louis University High School in St. Louis MO.
O Lord, you search me and you know me; you know when I sit and when I stand.
All my ways lie open to you….
If I take the wings of the dawn and dwell at the sea’s furthest end,
even then your hand would lead me, your right hand hold me fast….
O search me, God, and know my heart.
Lead me in the path of life eternal.
He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”
He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.
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-translation
The parable of the mustard seed is well-known. But perhaps we all need to challenge ourselves to take a step back and to think creatively to find ways to plants seeds of faith and grow the kingdom of God in small ways within our families, within our circle of friends, within our work places, and within our communities. Pope Francis has been an example for all of us to serve the least of our brothers and sisters; to dialogue with and embrace those with various faith traditions; to live lives that are more simple, that are free from distractions and excessiveness, and to not partake in gossip and conversations which serve to tear others down as opposed to build them up.
What actions can I take to plant seeds of faith, seeds of hope, seeds of compassion and mercy, and seeds of love in the Kingdom of God here on earth?
—Leigh M. Hartley works in higher education administration at the University of Chicago. Over the past 15 years she has volunteered with the Jesuits, initially with Charis Ministries more recently years through planning and organizing pilgrimages with Fr. Michael Sparough, S.J.
When you plant a tree
every leaf that grows will tell you,
what you sow will bear fruit.
So if you have any sense, my friend
don’t plant anything but love,
you show your worth by what you seek.
Water flows to those who want purity
wash your hands of all desires and
come to the table of Love.
Do you want me to tell you a secret?
The flowers attract the most beautiful lover
with their sweet smile and scent.
If you let God weave the verse in your poem
people will read it forever.