FRIDAY HOMILY: More Paul's from our Saul's
to accept my message but also to embrace it for himself. He was baptized and began living his life for Christ.
Not long ago I heard from this man again. He let me know that he was still living out his faith actively as a part of Christ's Church and wanted to let me know what a difference our encounter had on him.
The beautiful thing about the Gospel, is that we are able to have such divine encounters with many people over the course of our life. The Saul's are out there. Some are angry, hostile and working to overturn the things of God. Others are not as antagonistic. All of them, however, need to the redeeming grace of Christ applied to their lives. They need their own Damascus road.
Faith is, in many ways, a journey of discovery. Paul set out on the road to Damascus, not aware that there was another destiny awaiting him at the end. Many scholars have tried to determine exactly where on the road Paul's conversion took place. All we know is he was "nearing Damascus."
Paul's journey, however, was not just about encountering a blinding light at a certain place on the road but meeting a man at the end of the road by the name of Ananias. Led by the hand of his startled companions, Paul waited in his epiphany-imposed darkness for three days, not knowing what to expect.
At the same time Paul was awaiting his enlightening, God was preparing Ananias.
Just think for a second, what would it be like to get a message from the Lord to go and visit a man who had a reputation of doing evil toward Christians? He was also informed that the man is now in your city. What conclusion could you draw other than he was there to reproduce the same pattern of behavior there?
Yet, in obedience to the direction he received from the Lord, he went. Not only did he go to Saul but called him "brother!" The three days of darkness were broken by a man who Saul had never met before but who treated him with divine love.
Over the years I have met a lot of "not-yet Paul's." They weren't notorious enemies of the Church. They were, however, a bit rough around the edges when it came to spiritual things but they had been touched and didn't know what to do with what was happening to them.
In this Year of Faith, we need to take seriously our role of encouraging others in their relationship with God. We can think of Ananias as our model for this.
About forty years ago there was an interesting occurrence in our nation called the "Jesus Movement." In the height of the flower-power generation, a group of these young people started reading the Scriptures and had an amazing encounter with God. Excited about Spiritual things, they headed to church - any church. Those who had been raised in a church often went back to the place of their roots, but bringing a new passion for Christ combined with the outward signs of the sixties. They had long hair, ragged jeans, tie-died t-shirts, etc.
Often, the church didn't know what to do with them. These "Jesus people," as they often called themselves, didn't always act the way "normal Christian people" behaved. Many had no clue that many churches and denominations also had a special vocabulary - ways of talking as believers - that everyone was supposed to learn. It was not unusual for these young people to feel unwelcomed or even downright dis-invited from a local congregation.
The churches that did welcome the new converts profited immeasurably. With understanding and patience they brought this rag tag army along. As a result, these parishes experienced many blessings from what these young people contributed to the life of the faith community.
I know because I was one of these people. Raised in the Episcopal Church and very active as an altar server, etc. I had wandered away as a teen - getting involved in playing in a rock back and ultimately becoming a rock-n-roll DJ in the regional radio markets.
My encounter with the Lord was profound and life-changing. However, it took an Ananias - in the form of a local pastor and also one of the church families - to support my formation and maturation as a Christian. They spent a lot of time with me, answered my questions and gave me the opportunity to get involved in ministry. I am forever indebted to them for looking at me through the eyes of potential.
We need more Paul's in our parishes. These are men and women who take their faith seriously and also have a commitment to take it into the world. Their relationship with Christ and His Church is paramount in their worldview. Everything in their lives is built upon this great foundation of faith - with their family, their careers and even their flexible time. It's all about Him.
At the local parish where I am currently in part-time residence, I've been leading a Bible study in the Acts of the Apostles. We are just about at the end of the book and ...
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: St. Paul, conversion, saints, Paul, evangelization, evangelism, Christ
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