Tuesday, January 24, 2017

"WHY ARE YOU PERSECUTING ME?"


Homily for January 25th, 2017: Acts of the Apostles 22: 3-16.

          “Why are you persecuting me?” the voice from heaven asks the zealous defender of his Jewish faith, Saul, as he approaches Damascus. He is armed with letters from the religious authorities in Jerusalem authorizing him to track down and arrest members of this heretical sect who follow and worship a mere man, Jesus of Nazareth.

“Persecuting me?” Persecuting “my Church,” we could understand. But“me”? The words that Paul heard from heaven that day are the origin of his teaching that the Church is Christ’s body. What does that mean? Simply this. Since his return to his Father’s right hand in heaven, Jesus has no body on earth but ours. We are hands, arms, feet, eyes, ears, and voice for Jesus Christ. What a tremendous responsibility! But a tremendous opportunity a well.

Paul’s conversion is yet another of the Lord’s surprises. Which of us would have chosen an arch persecutor of the Church to be the first great missionary of the gospel to those outside the Jewish world in which Jesus was born, nourished and died?

Unlike Jesus’ other apostles, Paul was not an eyewitness to Jesus’ deeds and teaching. There is no evidence that Paul ever saw Jesus. In time, however, Paul became convinced that he had seen the risen Lord there outside Damascus. Here is what Paul writes in his first Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 15.

“I handed on to you first of all what I myself received, that Christ died for us in accordance with the Scriptures, rose on the third day; that he was seen by Cephas [Peter], then by the Twelve. After that he was seen by five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Next he was seen by James; then by all the apostles. Last of all he was seen by me, as one born out of the normal course.” And then, remembering the man he had been before he saw the risen Lord, Paul adds: “I am the least of the apostles; in fact, because I persecuted the church of God, I am not worthy of the name. But by God’s grace, I am what I am.” (verses 3-10)

As we celebrate Paul’s conversion today, we pray that like him, we too may give ourselves completely to the Lord. And we pray too that one day we may hear the Lord speaking to us tenderly, and with great love: “Well one, good and faithful servant. Enter into your master’s joy.”