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.
Have you ever heard the beginning of a story and then, upon recognition, quit listening? That happened to me with the first reading today, the conversion story of St. Paul. I was lucky, though, as I noticed what I was doing. So I reread the story and was amazed by what I would have missed.
Saul (later named Paul) sat in Damascus for three days unable to see and did not eat or drink —3 DAYS! What would happen to me if I went without food and drink for that long? When Saul made it to the house of Judas, he is praying. What? Was he reciting familiar prayers over and over? Was he reading devotional books? Was he in conversation with God? What must that have been like for him, especially in his current blind and hungry condition?
Then Paul stayed with the disciples for some days. I imagine he wanted to learn more about this Jesus whom he was persecuting and now will “begin at once” to proclaim. It must have been some intense catechesis!
In so many stories of our faith, there lie many opportunities for growth. Don’t leave these stories early. You might miss out on some amazing graces God is tossing out there for you.
—Fr. Kevin Schneider, SJ is the director of adult spirituality programs at Creighton Preparatory School in Omaha, NE. He is a spiritual director and offers parish missions and retreats in the style of Ignatian Spirituality.
Grant me, O Lord, to see everything now with new eyes,
to discern and test the spirits that help me read the signs of the times,
to relish the things that are yours, and to communicate them to others.
Give me the clarity of understanding that you gave Ignatius.
—Personal prayer of Fr. Pedro Arrupe. S.J.