For most folks today is just one more Monday. But to some Christians January 25 marks the feast of Saint Paul, aka Saul. The chief hater and destroyer of followers of the Way, as those who followed Jesus were called. That was long before designations or denominations like Christian, Catholic, Baptist, Fundamentalist, Liberal or Evangelical, for starters.
So why write about Saint Paul on a Monday, when most of us aren’t into either Saints or Mondays? Well, as I listened to Dean Robert read Acts nine today, the story of Paul and Ananias got personal. And maybe it will for you. God came, ready or not, to Saul on the road to Damascus and to me at my table today. How so?
Well, Saul’s life seemed figured out, people pegged, positions firmed, mission underway until the Light showed up. And the next thing Saul knew he was face down in life’s dirt, listening to a strange voice call his name. Which led Saul to ask,”Who are you, sir?” And he heard,” I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting.'”(Acts 9:5, NLT)
So now what? Well, to condense, Saul gets an assignment, plan C for Chosen. Next, he arises, dusts himself off, blinks a few times and discovers he’s blind. Now, this intimidating leader needs his friends to lead him to Damascus. Saul’s to go to Straight Street, and the house of Judas. Not that Judas but worth pondering.
Meanwhile, there’s a man named Ananias, a believer. He’s all too aware of Saul’s hatred and blind passion against followers of the Way, like him. So when Jesus asks him to go and lay hands on Saul to heal his blindness, Ananias responds to Christ’s request as I’ve done more than once, “But Lord…” Like you’d never ask me to do this if you only knew who he/she is or what he/she did or plans to do. But Jesus sees what Ananias and I can be blind to. Like Dean Robert reminded me today, “Never judge someone as totally beyond recall.” Very British sounding, but true.
So, Jesus simply says, “Go and do what I say.” And somewhere between the going and doing, the Light enters Ananias. Next thing he knows, instead of cursing, he’s blessing, healing and speaking to, “Brother Saul.” Not enemy or bother, but brother.
Well, I could never begin to repair such a breach without God’s help. There’s too much of Saul’s hate in me and too little of Ananias’s courageous faith. Which reminded me of Mother Teresa, because we’re so different. When asked how she handled with grace some very difficult people she responded that she tries to see the face of Jesus in each person. Then added, “Sometimes Jesus comes in a most distressing disguise.”
Sometimes in most distressing disguises.
But never ” totally beyond recall.”
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