Karen and I hope that you are enjoying this lesson about the conversion of St. Paul. What an amazing story it is! God took the “raw material” of Saul’s heart and life and created a person more in line with what He had originally intended when He formed Paul in his mother’s womb. God often does the same with us. If we stray from God’s intended path for our life, as I did and still do at times, corrective action is needed by God, if we are to fulfill our original promise and purpose. That corrective action is often painful, as it was with Saul.
“But 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 belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” Acts 9:1-2
Have you wondered what happened to the pregnant and nursing mothers and their children when Saul was “rounding them up”? Were they caught in Saul’s net as well? How many early Christians died at the hands of Saul and the leaders of the Sanhedrin? Those early martyrs are nameless and faceless to us, yet they stand in their white robes at the side of God, praising Him and praying for each one of us and the Church.
Our textbook tells us that the first written testimony about Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus was written by Paul himself in Galations 1:13-24. Isn’t it interesting that Paul leaves out all the extraneous details and quickly gets to the ‘heart of the matter”? Paul tells us that he had “advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors”. We can surmise that the story of Saul’s conversion must have been told and retold many times in many different places, perhaps so many times that the story often preceded Paul’s arrival. St. Paul gives us “just the facts” as he sees them – God had set Paul apart before he was born and called him through His grace, revealing His Son Jesus to him. St Luke “fleshes out” the story somewhat, giving us the time and place and manner of God’s definitive call. St. Luke’s details give us so much more to ponder.
What did Saul do during those three days when he was blind? The Scripture tells us that he neither ate nor drank during that time of waiting. As our textbook relates, “to be struck blind himself would mean that God’s favor had been withdrawn from him as a consequence of serious sin”. Perhaps Saul spent the time praying for God’s forgiveness, asking for God’s mercy and trying to fit his knowledge and experience of life and the Law into what had been revealed to him on the Damascus road. We often do the same when confronted by a difficult experience. We try to make sense of it; we try to incorporate new ideas into the way we live and think. Sometimes that pondering changes our life’s direction, as it did mine.
I imagine Saul remembered from his studies how often the prophets spoke of what God wanted from His people, as in Hosea 6:6: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice”. Where was the mercy in Saul’s actions against the early Christians?
Or did Saul think about Jeremiah’s prophecy in Chapter 31 – “See, the days are coming when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors the day I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt… But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days. I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
What an adventure awaited Saul – his life turned upside down, his chosen direction in life interrupted and changed by God’s grace and call! And what about me? Have I listened to God’s voice and answered His call? I pray that it is so.
May God richly bless you as you study His Word,
Karen and Franciene