Have you ever noticed how unexpected opportunities can be born in the middle of the most challenging crises? Have you ever experienced how the middle of the storm or spiritual “blackout” can be a great opportunity to lose sight of where we thought we were headed and become led instead to where God wants us to go? God’s gift of Jesus to each of us enables us to find our path forward together…and be blessed in the process.
I reread the First Reading for this Sunday by listening to it on a Bible app on my phone in my car during a long drive recently. You can find the passage by clicking here. This is the story of St. Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus…an event that occurred when he was still known as “Saul.” I thought I knew that story well…how Paul saw a great light, heard a great voice, and was led to Christians in Damascus where he would soon become a powerful witness for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All of that is true, of course. But what I noticed for the first time as I heard the story on my app was how Paul was actually in the dark for a long part of this story while the events around him unfolded. The only instructions he received on the road to Damascus were to “rise and enter the city” where he would be “told what…to do” (9:6). His blindness is reinforced in the narrative: “Though his eyes were open, he saw nothing” (8). And again: “For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank” (9).
We all know how the story ends, but St. Luke seems to want us to linger a bit on the blindness that connected Saul’s life before Jesus and after Jesus. He wants us to take note, I think, that although God could have turned Saul around without the dark, God chose not to. Not only that. God could have changed Saul right there on the spot without another human being even getting involved. But God did things differently. God used another person, Ananias, to be God’s instrument of faith and light for Saul. The blind Saul is led at last to Ananias who greets him with these words: “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit” (9:17). Speaking God’s promises to Saul and baptizing him, that is exactly what happens.
It is so easy only to set our sights on the destinations our heart desires and live as if that way is the only way. This Eastertide we can again embrace the looming crisis or storms life brings our way, knowing that in the crucified and living Lord Jesus Christ even sinners like us have been enfolded into God’s plan, where “all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28).
Our impending course correction might be confusing and uncomfortable. But how blessed the blindness that finds its resolution in God’s love and mercy…brought to us (however imperfectly!) by the flesh-and-blood people of God. Let’s rest in that outcome again this week.
(BTW, if you’re looking for a good app to listen to the Bible in your car, download YouVersion’s Bible app. Download the appropriate version here. Then go to “Read” [at the bottom of the screen when you open the app] and click the speaker icon at the top of the next page.)