Scripture: 1st Reading: Acts22,3-16; Resp. Psalm: Ps117,1-2; Gosp. Accl.: Jn15,16; Gospel: Mk16,15-18
Saul of Tarsus was a strict observer of the Law of Moses. He was a man of deep convictions and great zeal for the cause of Yahweh. He threw his entire life into the defence of the religion of his father's.
Saul was a man on fire for the cause of righteousness. He had little tolerance for anyone who attempted to dilute or jeopardize the pristine purity of the Jewish religion. For him, Yahweh had given the law to Moses, a way of worship of the living God had come out of that. That was enough. All attempt at experimentation with a new religion must be crushed.
This was Saul's conviction. It was thus no surprise that the early Christian community became the focus of his attention. He could not understand why a new sect would be rearing its head within Judaism. He could not understand how true and freeborn Jews would embrace this new "madness". As a result, Saul, a Pharisee, made himself a ready tool in the hands of the high priest and the council of elders for the total eradication and quick extermination of the offensive pest called Christianity.
Saul had his plans. He thought he was doing a holy duty for God. God had His plans. God was going to show Saul who the master was. He was going to demonstrate to Saul that no human being, born of a woman, could stop the advancement of His will.
The appointed place to demonstrate divine power was on the road to Damascus. Saul was going there with a detachment od guards from Jerusalem to arrest the members of the Christianity community. There were to be brought to Jerusalem in chains. Before he got to Damascus, Saul had a religious experience that till today is one of the most mysterious and outstanding.
A great light from heaven shone about him. He fell to the ground, blinded by the intensity of the light. A voice then asked why Saul was persecuting Him. The voice said He was Jesus of Nazareth whom Saul was persecuting. Saul asked what he was to do. Our Lord told him to go into Damascus and meet Ananias, who restored to him his sight and told him that he had been appointed by God to know His will and witness to Him. He was thereafter baptized.
With this extraordinary encounter from heaven, thus began perhaps the most astounding commitment by any human person to the cause of the gospel that the world has ever known. From that day, the life of this persecutor turned disciple was no longer the same. That encounter practically ended his life. From that day, he began to live the life of Another Person, Christ Jesus the Lord.
From that day, this man of unbounded energy and extraordinary zeal became a fiery preacher of the gospel, a man of incomparable courage, a man of outstanding and almost limitless strength, a very brilliant disciple who deployed all his gifts for the good of the gospel. He became so important that without him, the history of Christianity would probably have been written differently.
He preached in season and out of season, welcome or unwelcome. He ran the race to the finish, kept the faith and was given the crown of righteousness that he longed for all his life. We have him as a model in our journey of faith. Let us imitate his zeal for the gospel. Let us learn from him his passion for the cause of Christ. Let us learn from him what courage in the face of trials means. Let us imbibe the lessons of his steadfastness, patience and love for Jesus.
In these moments in our collective history, we need the intercession of this great Apostle. His life teaches us that with prayer, even the virulent unbeliever of today will still preach the name of Jesus. Let us be steadfast in our commitments to the Lord. Let us not be discouraged. Let us not waver. Victory is His!
Let us pray: "O God, who taught the whole world through the preaching of the blessed Apostle Paul, draw us, we pray, nearer to you through the example of him whose conversion we celebrate today, and so make us witnesses to your truth in the world." Amen.
May the Living Word of God find a true dwelling place within our hearts and souls today and always.