Friday, April 27, 2007


Today's first reading at Mass told the story of St. Paul's (or, if you wish, "the artist formerly known as Saul") conversion. Being the nerdy trivia geek that I can be sometimes, I thought I'd share some factoids with you:
  • This account is one of three times it appears in Acts (the other two times are situations when Paul tells the story to others, in Acts 22 & 26, and the timeline between his conversion and his return to Jerusalem is explained by St. Paul in Galatians 1:15-24).
  • Damascus is about 140 miles from Jerusalem. This was no "daytrip"; it would've taken about one week to travel.
  • Despite Caravaggio's depiction in the picture above, there's no horse to be found in the accounts.
  • Paul is a Pharisee, traveling with Temple guards who are Saducees. Even here, Paul is being an observant Pharisee (which literally means "the separated ones") by walking separately from his non-Pharisee companions.

But that's not my purpose in writing today. The other person we hear about today is one of the "unsung heroes" of Scripture. The courage of Stephen during his stoning may have moved Saul emotionally, but his conversion is owed to Ananias just as much (if not more).

Why is Ananias "heroic"? God asks Ananias to trust Him. He's being asked by God to "turn himself in as a Christian" to Saul, whose reputation has already preceded him into Damascus. What trust was needed by Ananias to reach out to someone who had the authority to drag him back to Jerusalem and prosecute him as a Christian.

Do we have that kind of trust in the Lord? And even if we obey God out of "fear", what's our attitude while we're doing what we know God wants us to do? Do we accept the work cheerfully? Or do we do it with a pout on our face and words under our breath?

How does Ananias greet this persecutor of Christians? Does he say, "Look, I don't like you, and I'm only doing this because for some reason God has a plan for your sorry butt." Au contraire, Scripture tells us he enters the house where Saul is staying, lays his hands on him (in a nice way; not to play "taunt the blind man"), and has the conviction of his faith enough to call him "brother". Then, the scales on his eyes fall off, he stands up, and Ananias baptizes him then and there (calm down, RCIA teams!).

Ananias. Here's a guy rarely spoken of, but one to whom we owe a great deal. How many of us are willing to become God's "unsung heroes", doing important and necessary work without necessarily getting the recognition?

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