Learning to See Again – Reflection for Easter 3 May 1 2022

 

 

Meanwhile 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 who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was

baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”

Acts 9:1-20

Michelangelo-St-Paul

The story of the conversion of St Paul is a familiar tale. Paul known by his Jewish name of Saul is persecuting the disciples of Jesus. He’s a man with a mission, ‘breathing threats and murder against the disciples’. He’s actively going out of his way to find them. He wants to know which synagogues they belong to and bring them to Jerusalem to be killed. He wants to be rid of all the followers of the Way. The term ‘the Way’ recurs in Acts but is not found elsewhere in the New Testament. It represents a very early understanding of the Christian community as following the way of life and light, the example of Jesus Christ that leads to God. Saul is trying to extinguish the light. He is using every means at his disposal to stamp out the life of the early Christian church.

But God has other ideas. The story of Paul’s conversion is one of radical transformation. He is changed from persecutor to proclaimer of the gospel. Saul is blinded by a bright light and hears a voice from heaven: ‘I am Jesus who you are persecuting.’ Jesus of Nazareth is identified with his church. He is present in the suffering of his followers, then and now. Saul who has done his best to extinguish the light of Christ through persecuting the body of Christ, is blinded. The dazzling light brings darkness. Paul cannot see a thing and is led into Damascus. He acknowledges his own need and learns to see again. God forgives Saul for all that he has done wrong. His sight is restored and he commits himself to following the Way of Christ.

For those of us who have been Christians for a while, the challenge of Paul’s conversion is exactly this: to look at the world afresh through the eyes of Christ. If the resurrection of Jesus Christ is to bring new life, hope and vision we, like Paul, have to acknowledge our need of God and see again.

Rev Canon Nikki Arthy, Rector

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