By David Baumann
A Reading from Acts 9:10-19a
10 Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; 14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; 16 I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength. For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus.
One of the first things that happens after Saul’s vision is that he is unable to see. At the least, this gives him the opportunity to learn humility, for he has to depend on others to lead him, to prepare his food, to talk to him. While he is blind, God speaks to him. Saul, who had once ignored the prods, is now fully attentive. He is given a vision of Ananias coming to heal his blindness even before Ananias himself knows about it.
There are numerous accounts of vicious persecutors who themselves became believers. Hot Cinder, the Iroquois warrior who dealt St. Jean de Brébeuf the fatal blow after hours of torture, himself later became a Christian and an enthusiastic evangelist. King Mwanga, who ordered the ghastly martyrdoms of the Ugandan Christians in 1886, was later baptized. Hivijapa, who murdered the Christian Lucian Tapiedi in Papua New Guinea in 1942, was later baptized and took the name Lucian. Herbert Kappler, the Nazi SS chief in Rome during World War II who sought to capture Father Hugh O’Flaherty — a priest who repeatedly ministered secretly by leaving the Vatican by night — was later converted by O’Flaherty while he was serving a life term for atrocities committed during the occupation.
When the Lord calls Ananias to visit Paul and lay hands on him, he responds, “Lord, I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people.” The Lord responds, “Go!” Saul’s conversion was effected directly by Jesus in a vision, but the next step is an encounter with one of the faithful — one who addresses the former enemy of the Church as “brother Saul.” This whole week has been about conversions, powerful and history-changing events. In our own day, may we obey when the Lord leads.
David Baumann has been an Episcopal priest for 47 years, mainly in the Diocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of Springfield. He is now retired and has published nonfiction, science fiction novels, and short stories.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
Episcopal Church of St. Alban the Martyr, Queens, N.Y.
The Anglican Church of Tanzania