An ardent persecutor of Christians in the early Church, Saul was a devout Jew. A man who was passionate about his faith, he had real zeal for the letter of the law.
We first come across Saul in the Acts of the Apostles. He stands some distance away from a young man, Stephen, who is being stoned to death. Saul stands casually by, holding the coats of those who were committing the murder; they have his full approval. In fact Saul goes on to actively hunt down and throw into prison anyone who is following this “new religion”.
His reign of terror leads him to seek permission to follow the Christian Jews who have fled to Damascus. The journey was about one hundred and eighty miles and you can imagine him galloping at a thunderous pace to get there. This was not a man who was idle and sauntering along, but one who was on a mission and nothing was going to stop him from succeeding in the task he had set himself.
However, before he managed to reach Damascus, a bright light knocks him off his horse and blinds him. A voice is heard calling to him, ” Saul, Saul why do you persecute me?” Saul and his companions must have been terrified, for the men with him heard the voice but could see nothing.
I often wonder how must Saul have felt. Here is this proud and arrogant man, laid low, scrabbling around in the dirt. How did he look to his companions? What must they have thought in that moment about their strong and impassioned leader?
In answer to his meek question – “who are you?” – Jesus reveals himself. “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting…” Here we have the revelation of the mystical body of Jesus. Saul, in hunting for Christians, hunts Christ. In this one thought there is a good lesson for all of us to learn, when we hurt others we hurt Christ.
In this moment Saul is humbled by God. Blind, and not able to go forward without relying on another, Saul has to accept help; he is led into Damascus where he fasts and prays for three days before help in the form of a Christian called Ananias arrives.
For me, in this story, there are two main elements that we can bring to our children: conversion and forgiveness. Jesus does not condemn Saul for his actions, but when Saul encounters Christ he has an immediate conversion and completely changes his perspective on life.
Now admittedly, most of us do not have such a dramatic conversion as Saul, but we are called to convert our lives to be more Christ like every day. This is a real teaching for all of us: we too can be proud and arrogant, believing in our own self-righteousness. But so often we can be humbled and brought low. And then we have two choices: we can kick and scream against it, or we can admit our fault and seek the forgiveness of a Saviour. Like Saul we can say, “what would you have me do Lord?”
In celebrating this feast we are able to speak to our children about the beauty of the sacrament of confession; our need to repent and draw close to God, to seek his forgiveness, and to be set free to become the children of light that he wants us to be.
It might be fun to serve as a starter a little humble pie!
1 bag of spinach or a colander full of nettles.
1 tablespoon olive oil.
1 onion chopped.
1 leek, finely chopped.
250 g of ricotta cheese or cottage cheese.
8 sheets of filo pastry.
100g of melted butter.
Salt and pepper.
Heat the oil and fry the onions and leeks until soft.
Cook the spinach or nettles in a small amount of boiling water until it wilts, drain and squeeze out any excess water. Combine with all the other ingredients.
Cut the pastry in half and brush each piece with melted butter using four sheets per person lay the sheets one on top of the other, place a spoonful of the spinach mixture on top of the pastry, fold the pastry over the mixture and seal with some extra butter. Carefully place the parcels on an oven proof tray and pop in the oven and bake for 20 mins or until the pastry looks a lovely golden colour.
Tags: St Paul