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Acts 22:3-16

Paul said to the people, “I am a Jew and was born at Tarsus in Cilicia. I was brought up here in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was taught the exact observance of the Law of our ancestors. in fact, I was as full of duty towards God as you are today. I even persecuted this Way to the death, and send women as well as men to prison in chains as the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify, since they even sent me with letters to their brothers in Damascus. When I set off it was with the intention of bringing prisoners back from there to Jerusalem for punishment.

“I was on that journey and nearly at Damascus when about midday a bright light from heaven suddenly shone round me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ I answered: Who are you, Lord? and he said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, and you are persecuting me.’ The people with me saw the light and did not hear his voice as he spoke to me. I said: What am I to do, Lord? The Lord answered, ‘Stand up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told what you have been appointed to do.’ The light had been so dazzling that I was blind and my companions had to take me by the hand; and so I came to Damascus.

“Someone called Ananias, a devout follower of the Law and highly thought of by all the Jews living there, came to see me; he stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ Instantly my sight came back and I was able to see him. Then he said, ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will, to see the Just One and hear his own voice speaking, because you are to be his witness before all mankind, testifying to what you have seen and heard. And now why delay? It is time you were baptised and had your sins washed away while invoking his name.’”

Today as we celebrate the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, there are a few very striking things about the first reading. One striking thing is that Saul’s experience with Jesus proved something. It proved that no matter how much a devout follower of the Law you are, so long as you insist on persecuting and condoning the deaths of others, even if it is for a good cause, then you do not know Jesus.

Saul was one of the teachers of the Law. He was the disciple of Gamaliel, one of the leading authorities among the Jews at that time. He was very well-versed in the Law and himself was a Pharisee. Despite all that knowledge, however, Saul didn’t know Jesus, and anyone who does not know Jesus, does not know the Father, for Jesus is the full revelation of the Father.

In contrast with Saul was Ananias, also a devout follower of the Law. The difference was that he knew Jesus. Because he knew Jesus, Ananias could look at Saul, one of the enemies of the Christians at that time, and call him “Brother”. Can you do that? Can you look at your enemy and call him “Brother” or “Sister” and mean it?

Another striking thing about Paul is that after his conversion, he used many different methods of preaching to convince people, but in the end, he found that the best method of evangelisation was the one he used in today’s first reading - he shared his conversion experience.

Many of us are afraid of going out to evangelise because we think that we are not knowledgeable enough to share the Christian faith with others. Knowledge about Christ is secondary to knowledge of Christ. If we know Christ, if we have encountered Christ in person, if we have had a conversion experience, then we have been equipped to share the Christian faith with others. All that is needed is our own personal experience with Christ.

If we have had a personal experience with Christ, we need not fear, because that experience is subjective. No one can tell you that your experience was right or wrong, because experiences are subjective. There is no right or wrong with personal experience. But personal experiences often are the most powerful way of convincing another person. It might not produce objective proof of the existence of God, but it tells another person that someone or something has touched you deeply enough to make you want to share it with him or her. It gives him or her reason to believe that there is something worth looking into. And that really is all that we need to do. God will handle the rest of it.

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