|Feast of the Conversion of St.
Paul the Apostle
Acts 22:3-16, or Acts 9:1-22
Psalm 117:1, 2
The readings of Christmastide certainly seem to include a lot of messages coming down from on high, God or His messengers speaking directly to main characters of the New Testament story. First, there was the angel who appeared to Mary, exchanging with her those magnificent words of the Annunciation. Then, there were the many instructions received in dreams by the presumably bewildered but always steadfast Joseph. More angels appeared to shepherds at the Nativity, more instructive dreams counseled the Magi. Last Sunday, celebrating the Baptism of Jesus, God the Father exalted in His Son, in whom He was “well pleased.” And now, today, we recall the memorable scene of Saul, erstwhile persecutor of Christians, while riding along the road to Damascus, being jolted from his horse by a flash of light, and hearing the words of Jesus Himself calling him to believe and to follow. Thus ensues the journey of St. Paul who went forth to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ throughout much of the Mediterranean world.
Reflections on such a flurry of communications beckon me to meditate on the times when I might have heard the voice of God. But that proves to be a difficult and unrewarding venture. Has God ever really and clearly spoken to me, told me specifically what to do? I think I would recall if an angel ever stood before me. I hardly ever remember dreams longer than it takes me to brush my teeth in the morning. And whenever I get knocked off of my high horse, it happens as a consequence of one of my own decisions or that of another mere mortal like me. At the same time, I am convinced of the presence, indeed the hand, of God in my life. Although it is there all the time, it announces itself most clearly at moments of struggle, at times of sadness or of confusion in my own life, in the lives of my loved ones and even my world. God never actually tells me exactly what to do—however much I wish He would at times. Rather, He is always there to remind me that I do have a response to what happens to me, that He lovingly brings to me the wisdom to know what to do and the courage to do it. I wish I could report that I always listened, that I always acted wisely, or that I always employed the courage offered. That it was offered every time and that it will be offered next time, however, I have no doubt.
Today, then, I pray with St. Paul. Sitting on the ground, in exhilarating awe of the radiance of the Risen Christ, I examine my day and the life I am given. Looking upward and inward, I ask with gratitude and with confidence, “What is it I must do, Lord?”
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