The Conversion of St. Paul

Today is the day on which the Catholic Church celebrates the conversion of St. Paul. The story is one familiar to all Christians and it is one often referred to by those seeking some clarity from God as they seek to discern their path. Many people express that they experience difficulty hearing God when God tries to speak to them or understanding clearly exactly what it is that God is trying to convey.

Paul (called Saul at the time) had no such problem. On the road to Damascus, a great light suddenly shone on him from the sky, causing him to fall to the ground. Hard to miss that one. When he hears a voice calling him by name, asking “why are you persecuting me,” he asks who is speaking. The reply comes to him, “I am Jesus…Now get up and go into the city where you will be told what you must do.” No lack of clarity there. Nor is there any lack of clarity when God solicits Ananias’ help in Paul’s conversion. It is hard to get much more clear and direct than this; Ananias is told the precise street he is to proceed to: “Get up and go to the street called Straight and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul…”

I’ve sometimes jokingly said, “Just give me the lightening bolt, Lord. Knock me off my horse the way you did Paul and just tell me exactly what you want me to do.” And I’ve heard similar sentiment expressed by those for whom I’ve provided spiritual direction.

As I reflected on the passage this morning, my mind played back over some of my deep religious experiences. As I looked back, what I realized is that, while I’ve never been knocked off my horse, there have, in fact, been occasions where God has spoken to me every bit as clearly and directly as he did to Paul. To be sure, most of the time God’s communication is more subtle…more like the quiet breeze than an earthquake. But at the times when I really needed to hear something – when I needed to discern direction or when I really needed reassurance during a painful period – God made sure I needed to hear what God wanted to communicate to me. It was an incredibly comforting realization, one that provides tremendous consolation, and one for which I am very grateful. Pretty specific direction.