Saints this Month – January 25th, The Conversion of Saint Paul
Do you ever wish that God would make a striking and stunning intervention in your life? I know that in my darkest moments I have wished God would make his presence known to me in a flash of lightning or a Monty Pythonesque foot-stomp. It is understandable that we could desire such an event. We think that such a solid and tangible episode will convince us beyond doubt that there is a God and our faith will be secure. Likewise maybe we study theology hoping that we will strengthen our belief through an intellectual foundation based on reason and argument or alternatively perhaps we practice spiritual exercises in the hope that we will enter a mystical ecstasy that will confirm us in our union with God. Whilst all of these things are not bad in themselves they are lacking something essential: the Holy Spirit!
When people talk about the Damascene conversion of Saint Paul it is often presupposed that Saul converted as he fell off his horse. However if we look at the narrative in Acts, we see that Saul was blinded for three days. It is only when Ananias lays hands upon him and calls for him to be filled with the Holy Spirit, that the scales fell back and Paul realised the movement of the Spirit within him. It is then that he is baptised; it is then that he converts and turns himself radically to the Lord. Without this moving of the Holy Spirit within all of us we are still handicapped and “blind” to the risen Christ. We can be dedicated practitioners of Ignatian spirituality, have an encyclopedic knowledge of the Summa of Aquinas, and witness visions of the Virgin Mary, but if we are not open to the Holy Spirit we will fail to experience the full joy that is offered be Christ.