Saul was still breathing threats to slaughter the Lord’s disciples. He had gone to the high priest and asked for letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, that would authorise him to arrest and take to Jerusalem any followers of the Way, men or women, that he could find.
Suddenly, while he was travelling to Damascus and just before he reached the city, there came a light from heaven all round him. He fell to the ground, and then he heard a voice saying, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ he asked, and the voice answered, ‘I am Jesus, and you are persecuting me. Get up now and go into the city, and you will be told what you have to do.’ The men travelling with Saul stood there speechless, for though they heard the voice they could see no one. Saul got up from the ground, but even with his eyes wide open he could see nothing at all, and they had to lead him into Damascus by the hand. For three days he was without his sight, and took neither food nor drink.
A disciple called Ananias who lived in Damascus had a vision in which he heard the Lord say to him, ‘Ananias!’ When he replied, ‘Here I am, Lord’, the Lord said, ‘You must go to Straight Street and ask the house of Judas for someone called Saul, who comes from Tarsus. At this moment he is praying, having had a vision of a man called Ananias coming in and laying hands on him to give him back his sight.’
When he heard that, Ananias said, ‘Lord, several people have told me about this man and all the harm he has been doing to your saints in Jerusalem. He has only come here because he holds a warrant from the chief priests to arrest everybody who invokes your name.’ The Lord replied, ‘You must go all the same, because this man is my chosen instrument to bring my name before pagans and pagan kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he himself must suffer for my name.’ Then Ananias went. He entered the house, and at once laid his hands on Saul and said, ‘Brother Saul, I have been sent by the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on your way here so that you may recover your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Immediately it was as though scales fell away from Saul’s eyes and he could see again. So he was baptised there and then, and after taking some food he regained his strength.
He began preaching in the synagogues, ‘Jesus is the Son of God.’
The Jews started arguing with one another: ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ they said. Jesus replied:
‘I tell you most solemnly,
if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you will not have life in you.
Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood
has eternal life,
and I shall raise him up on the last day.
For my flesh is real food
and my blood is real drink.
He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood
lives in me
and I live in him.
As I, who am sent by the living Father,
myself draw life from the Father,
so whoever eats me will draw life from me.
This is the bread come down from heaven;
not like the bread our ancestors ate:
they are dead,
but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.’
He taught this doctrine at Capernaum, in the synagogue.
There came a light from heaven all round him
The Case for Christ, which was recently made into a movie by PureFlix, is a book by a former atheist who started off attempting to discredit the Christian faith, but ended up becoming a convert. It began with the conversion of his wife, which prompted him to find evidence that would disprove Christianity. He applied his skills as an investigative journalist to interview several renowned religious scholars about Christianity, a process which proved to be a life-changing experience for him. Although it appeared that he converted in the face of overwhelming evidence for the existence of God and Jesus, and the authenticity of biblical content, I am quite sure that he must have had a personal encounter with Jesus through his investigations.
The conversion experience of Saul is perhaps one of the most dramatic in the gospel. Perhaps Saul needed something of that nature to cause him to make a complete turnaround towards Christianity. I have been reading Bishop Barron’s latest book To Light a Fire On the Earth, and in it, there is a quote from Pope Benedict XVI that Bishop Barron specifically states as something that Christians should always keep within sight. It is a statement from the document Deus Caritas Est – “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction”.
A lot of people approach religion purely with reason and logic; and while that might be helpful in convincing one about the truth of Christ’s teachings, faith must come into the picture at some point. And faith is something that is often sparked by personal encounters with the Lord, helping us realise that there is a creator who loves us.
How have you encountered Jesus in your life? It might have been through a crisis, a miraculous occurrence, however big or small, people you meet, or sometimes, the ‘voice in your head’. Whatever the encounters are, how did they give your life a new horizon and a decisive direction?
(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)
Prayer: We pray that we will be open and receptive to encountering the Lord in every aspect of our lives.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the gift of faith.