The Daily Bread, 1st May, 2020: Transforming Light
Readings: Acts 9:1-20; Psalm 116; John 6:52-59
Today’s first reading gives us one of the two accounts of St. Paul’s conversion. It’s a rather dramatic conversion: a light from heaven, the voice of Jesus, the accusation of Jesus against Saul, the command of Jesus to him to go into Damascus and await instructions. The first line of the reading tells us that Saul is “breathing threats to slaughter the Lord’s disciples.” The last line tells us that, now, Paul is preaching, “Jesus is the Son of God.” What a turn- around, literally! The truest meaning of the word con-version!
The core point is this: all of the energy, determination, perseverance and single-mindedness with which Saul was persecuting Jesus in His followers was now, because of the grace of Jesus’ appearance to Saul, being redirected towards the proclamation of the Gospel. This is what Jesus does. He takes what is dark in us and transforms it into light. There where we are wasting the resources of our souls and bodies is precisely where Jesus starts from to make us use them for His glory and our salvation.
What is sinful is parasitical. It feeds off and abuses what is good. One definition of sin is that we desire what is good in the wrong way. Take pleasure, for instance. It is a good that God has created. If we choose and desire it in a way that is right, that is, in a way that is in accordance with God’s disposition of it, then it is good; if we desire it in a way that is not of God, then it is evil. What conversion is about, therefore, is to take that sinful tendency we may have of whatever kind and examine it in the light of the Spirit to see what there is in it that good be used for good. It is to heal and replace what the parasite has devoured and wounded.
The light that shone around Saul merely showed up the truth of his sinfulness. Christ tells him plainly: you are persecuting me, God, you are rebelling against me. By his going blind, Saul is taught that his life is blind, he can’t see what is right, he can’t see the Lord. By knocking him to the ground, the light illuminates the fact that Saul is actually paralysed inside for all his running about to Damascus to perpetrate evil. By being in the dark in a house on Straight Street in Damascus, without food and water for three days, Saul is being taught that he is as good as dead, like the three days Jesus was in the tomb. Only by the laying on of hands by Ananias, that is, only by virtue of the power of God can he get up from his sick bed and rise again. Only by that power will the scales fall from his eyes so that he can see again. Only by the waters of baptism administered by Ananias will he be able to do what is truly right and abjure what is truly wrong, i.e. proclaim Jesus as Son of God and stop persecuting the disciples.
When we examine our consciences, we are being given the grace to follow in Paul’s footsteps in a small way. The light of the Spirit shows us where we are rebelling in sin and equally shows us how what we have been desiring and doing wrongly can be transformed into good. The bad in us is not rooted out as bad and thrown into the pit: no, it is rooted out by its being transformed, healed and replenished into material worthy for the service and glory of God.