STATIONS OF THE RESURRECTION
Jesus Appears To Saul
Acts of the Apostles Ch. 9 vs 1-18
Today we travel our final journey of our Stations of the Resurrection, a journey where we have seen how the resurrection affected and changed the disciples, and consequentially the world. Finally we come to see the conversion of St. Paul, a man who had not met Jesus in the flesh, but who met him so powerfully in the Spirit, that the early Church was empowered by his missionary zeal, and we continue to be inspired by his writings to this day.
Have you ever completely changed your mind about someone? Sometimes we hear stories about people falling in love with a person who they initially disliked, sometimes they are true stories and sometimes they are the mainstay of Mills and Boon fiction writers. We all like a happy outcome from a fractious relationship, but it usually seems much easier for others than ourselves. When Saul literally saw the light (of Christ) on his journey to Damascus, he changed completely and he was certainly “born again”. It is a story that is stranger than fiction.
When thinking about Saul we have to remember where he was coming from. He was a strict Jew and Pharisee who knew all about the messianic prophesies of the scriptures and he had made his mind up that these followers of Jesus, who were now proclaiming his resurrection and divinity were frauds and usurpers.
When we become Christians we put our trust in the Lord, but how do you think those early followers of the risen Lord felt about this man Saul? Saul was a man who was happy to hold the coats of those who stoned to death St. Stephen, and then took on a commission to go to Damascus to arrest other Christians. Our reading today tells us not only of the conversion of St. Paul but also of the conversion of Ananias, from someone terrified of a dangerous man, to an instrument of the Lord in releasing Saul from the bondage of his past self. If we move to a more recent time, how would a community of Jewish people during the Second World War react if a Gestapo officer arrived and said that he had decided to become a Jew. The anger and suspicion would have been immense from both the Jews and the Nazi officer before there could be total trust. Could you have been a person reach out in such circumstances for God's sake?
The fact that Saul, or St. Paul as we know him, saw the risen Christ is so important for us all, not because of his missionary zeal and his writings, but because of his example to all of us. He saw and believed and acted out his faith, to the point of martyrdom. Most of us will not experience a vision of the risen Lord, but as he said to Thomas,”Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe”. St. Paul's witness was different but complimentary compared with the disciples who had walked with Jesus in this world.
Bishop John Robinson in his book “But That I Can't Believe!”, points out that St. Paul's writings (he calls them his gospel), were all centred on Jesus and the resurrection, but he points out that Paul never mentions the empty tomb, because it was not central to him. Robinson points out that “The empty tomb is not the resurrection any more than the shell of the cocoon is the butterfly”. For all of us today, we cannot see the empty tomb, or any physical evidence of the resurrection, but we can know the risen Christ through the Holy Spirit, here with us in our lives and in our Church.