Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle

Lectionary: 519


Since I could see nothing because of the brightness of that light, I was led by hand by my companions and entered Damascus.




Saint Paul was one-hundred percent sure of what he was doing as he hounded and harassed Christians -- until he wasn’t. Suddenly he went blind. He had seen a light and heard a voice and nothing made sense anymore. Wisely, he let himself be led by the hand as he entered Damascus.
Blind people, in my experience, do not like to be led by the hand. It’s more polite to offer your elbow and let the blind person walk beside you with the freedom to let go your arm whenever he chooses.


But Saint Paul was led like a little child by the hand. All of his adult confidence had vanished.
I am currently reading a “biography” of Jesus. It’s an attempt to get inside the mind of Jesus and explain what he thought he was doing. The author, a professional novelist venturing outside his field, picks and chooses incidents from the gospels, reorganizes them in ways that make sense to him, agrees with some highly respected scripture scholars and disagrees with others.
He assumes that Jesus was driven by an idea, “the love of God and the God of Love.” He concludes that Jesus voluntarily died in Jerusalem to persuade his disciples of his convictions about love.
I find it very romantic and nonsensical. The romantic ideal did not appear until the Middle Ages and took shape during the Enlightenment. Jesus did not die for an idea or an ideal; he never read Rousseau or Montaigne, much less Coleridge or Shelley. He would not throw himself on the barricades of Paris with the cry of Liberté, égalité, fraternité.
In human terms, I don’t suppose Jesus knew what he was doing. There is no explanation of his purpose in the gospels. For that matter, we’re not even sure why he was arrested, condemned and executed. The Evangelists recall some accusations but say his accusers contradicted one another and could not agree on anything. The machinery of Jesus’ death had been set in motion and did not have to explain itself to its operatives. In human terms, Jesus could only say what he said when Saint John hesitated to baptize him, "Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness."
Like Saint Paul, Jesus was being led by the hand to Jerusalem. Unlike my novelist friend, I see Jesus walking with confidence in the Spirit that is leading him. He prays continually and with every step his assurance grows. When he reached the Garden of Gethsemane, after a final paroxysm of mortal terror, he readily surrendered himself to the temple police. 

Why it had to be that way still defies explanation; “That it was the Father’s will” was perfectly clear. His willing spirit, his clear head and his calm spirit attested to its righteousness.
There are many 0ne-day-at-a-time days when you and I don't have all the information. We don't know the consequences of our decisions. There are many days when we must ask, "Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on...." 

When the day came for Saint Paul to be executed, neither the first nor the last of Christian martyrs, he enjoyed that same confidence.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.