“Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight.”
Words from our First Reading today, the Book of Acts.
When he was Saul, he thought he was doing the right thing.
He was a person of power, and he used it to stifle the gospel for what he perceived to be a greater good.
It wasn’t a letter, a phone call, or a petition that changed his heart.
It wasn’t through a mass amount of people complaining about him.
It wasn’t the threat of being publicly shamed or exiled.
Saul became Paul only through an authentic encounter with the Risen Christ.
But he regained his sight when someone else laid their hands on him.
There are a lot of people in power who act contrary to the gospel but also think they’re doing good.
They truly believe it in their hearts – otherwise they wouldn’t be doing it.
Letters, calls, and petitions haven’t helped these people come to the truth.
Christ waits patiently on the hardest of hearts.
And he gives us the power to open their eyes by laying our spiritual hands on them.
Prayer and fasting will form a crack.
A tiny opening for a trickle of grace.
Then a flood.
It’s a power that comes from our baptism, being made priests, like Jesus himself.
And it’s a real, efficacious power so we better use it.
This is where the rubber hits the road. This is where authentic Christianity is put into practice.
We have to believe it.
Jesus called the world to himself through a new Paul.
If he’s going to continue to call the world to himself, he’s going to use a new us.
Friends, today we reflect on the significance of the conversion of St. Paul. Paul’s encounter on the road to Damascus was an answer to this question: When would God gather the nations and through Israel bring his rule to the whole world? When Paul met Jesus he realized that the promises of God had been fulfilled, that the expectations of the prophets had been met—but in a most unexpected and extraordinary way.
He knew from his tradition that God, through Israel, would deliver the world from sin, gather the nations, and establish peace and justice everywhere. That was the hope. The usual version of that hope was something like an avenging military and political ruler like Solomon or David, or a great lawgiver and leader like Moses.
What Paul saw in Jesus was someone greater than Moses, Solomon, or David—and someone wholly unexpected. God is establishing his justice, his right order, his way, through a crucified and risen criminal, and now returned from the dead? Forgiveness, compassion, nonviolence, having no truck with the ways of death? This is God’s justice, and it judges all of the fallen powers and kingdoms of the world.