The Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle

Spinello Aretino (Spinello di Luca Spinelli) (Italian, born Arezzo 1345–52, died 1410 Arezzo) The Conversion of Saint Paul, ca. 1391–92 Italian, Arezzo, Tempera on wood, gold ground; 11 7/8 x 11 5/8 in. (30.2 x 29.5 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Robert Lehman Collection, 1975 (1975.1.11) http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/459135

Today’s readings

Brothers and sisters, if we think that we are the ones who get to determine the direction of our lives, we are dead wrong.  That’s the corollary to the proverb, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans.”  God is always and forever in charge. Today’s feast is probably the clearest picture of that.

Look at Saul: educated in all the finest Jewish schools, well-versed in the Law and the Prophets, and zealous for the faith to a fault. He was absolutely the model Jewish man and had credentials that came directly from the high priests. Everyone knew of him, and his fame – or perhaps his infamy – spread all over the Judean countryside. He had participated in the stoning of Saint Stephen, letting the cloaks of the ones stoning him be piled at his feet. He was bringing all the followers of Christ back in chains to be tried and punished for following this new way. He was even on his way to Damascus to collect “the brothers” – so, the apostles – and put them on trial. The man was greatly feared.

Look at Ananias. He was no fool. He was well-acquainted with Saul’s evil plans and did everything he could to stay out of his path. He obviously wanted to stay out of prison, but more than that, he wanted to keep people like Saul from destroying the community of the followers of Jesus. Ananias was every bit as zealous for the faith as Saul was.

They both knew the direction of their lives and thought they had it all planned out. But they were dead wrong.

God can take the most zealous and stable of us and throw our whole lives into confusion. He sometimes uses great means to get our attention and move us in a new direction. Like a bright light, or a vision, as Saul experienced. But sometimes he uses quiet words in prayer or the gentle nudging of a friend. Conversion is a life-long process for all of us, and in Saint Paul’s and Annanias’s stories, we can see the danger of being too entrenched in what we think is the way for our lives. The only judge of what is really right for us is God alone, and when we forget that, we might be in for a rude awakening.  But when we remember that and are faithful to that, God’s plans for us give us freedom and joy.

The whole purpose of all of our lives, brothers and sisters, is to “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.” That’s what our Lord commands the apostles, and us, in the Gospel reading today.  The way that we do that is to constantly listen for God’s voice and always be willing to go wherever he leads us, even if it’s in a direction we didn’t expect or might not have chosen.

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