Commentary on the Gospel of
God has varied ways to get the attention of certain persons, like ourselves. The Angel appeared to Mary out of nowhere, except heaven. Moses stumbled into a bush which burned. Elijah heard whispers. Peter caught a boat-load of fish and on and on. Today we celebrate a knock-over. Saul of Tarsis hit the ground, stunned.
Saul was “verted” that is my own new word for being singularly headed toward self definition. He was a Jewish zealot, a protector of his religious traditions as well as a self-determined persecutor of anything which was different and therefore threatening. We read about his con-version into today’s First Reading in our Eucharistic liturgy. It was quite an interruption, dramatic and up-close and more personal than most conversion narratives.
Luke is telling in Acts, the Gospel of the Holy Spirit’s gathering and mission, of the early community which is known as “The Way”. This term describes the way people who are now following Jesus, live, act and serve God by serving others. The Holy Spirit is continuing the Incarnation, the bringing about of the Body of Christ as it did by bringing about the Conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary. Now the Body has members who share the holiness of Jesus, because they too have His Life within them and they are different.
Saul sees a flash, but then can no longer visually see. He is escorted ironically to Straight Street so as to see less “vertedly”, but “con-vertedly”. Sauls view of his mission and so his identity is changed, more literally, turned. He listens and takes in all that speaks of Jesus and the Way. His name is turned as well and he turns from persecuting the Body to becoming the proclaimer, proponent, the apostle who rises from his being knocked down to his standing up with all he had received.
So there you have it, quite a story and the remainder of his life is spent in forming, by his preaching and ways of living and suffering, the Body which once he tried to extinguish. What is in this story for us and about us?
There is so much “version” that is, so much self-formation, self-determination, so much self-certainty which can get us up on our own high horses. I speak of others, not you nor me of course. There are also many interruptions from the Spirit of God calling us back to earth, back to seeing ourselves and others in a straighter, more blessed way. One helpful little suggestion offered here might just be like a burning bush, or little whisper. Watch for ideas, the new, the different, the bumps in the night, which stimulate fears. They often knock us backward and yet can call us toward a more blessed way of being His Body. Fears can blind us, freeze us, imprison us. Fears can free us to ask the more important questions and maybe there will be new answers inviting us to a con-verting to a newness of self and life as with Saul-Paul and so many others.