The events of the First Reading are commonly described as the “Conversion of Saint Paul” and that is true—but only partly true. When Saul sees that celestial light and falls to the ground, he is beginning—not completing—his journey of conversion. That journey would take days, months, even years to “complete,” if “completion” is even possible or desirable when it comes to conversion! And the first stage of that conversion is complete darkness and blindness.
To someone as self-assured and enlightened about matters of religion as Saul of Tarsus that he was perfectly willing to kill others for his beliefs, his journey of faith in Jesus Christ begins with confusion and darkness. It’s almost as if he has to first learn how to “un-see” what he was so used to seeing and believing. He, who was so used to being a leader, has to learn to be led by others, to rely on them, to depend on them, to trust in their guidance and judgment.
And then he has to take risks. Like wondering if those like Ananias whom he had previously threatened and persecuted could forgive him and accept him. Blind, weak, and vulnerable is how Saul, now Paul, begins his journey. Perhaps the only stance from which he could hear and accept God saying: “My grace is sufficient for you; for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
—Fr. Charles Rodrigues, S.J., Associate Novice Director at the Jesuit Novitiate of St. Alberto Hurtado, St. Paul, MN. For more information on Jesuit vocations, click here.