thoughts and observations on the daily readings
Thursday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Readings may be found here
The conversion of St. Paul fascinates me for the way in which Paul is genuinely changed on the road to Damascus even as his personal qualities remain. Before his conversion, Paul was willing to use violence to enforce his beliefs; after he became a man of service who sought to persuade free hearts to come to faith. Before he was tribal in his focus on Judaism; after he became a man for all nations. The whole of his life was altered by the encounter with the Lord, yet his passion and conviction, his knowledge of the scriptures, and his devotion to mission all remain in his new life as a disciple of Jesus. We see these qualities on display in the reading from Acts as the intrepid Paul outwits his opponents and unwaveringly follows the directions of the Lord.
In order to understand this mix of a man changed and still himself, we need to consider Jesus’ prayer in the gospel passage. Here, Jesus is speaking of the communion of love that exists between him and the Father – a love that the Lord opens to His disciples. Divine love is not about control or domination, but willing the good of the other. In this way love changes us at the same time that it empowers us to become our truest selves. The Lord’s love for Paul and His personal call to Paul did not oppress Paul. That love liberated Paul from his anger and hatred and saw his gifts expand as Paul participated passionately in that invitation to the communion of love.