Road to Damascus

The First Reading from today’s Mass (Acts 9:1-20) is the story of Saul’s trip to Damascus where he was going to arrest the followers of the Way (of Jesus).

Acts 9:1-6

Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains.
On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus,a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
He said, “Who are you, sir?”
The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.
Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”

And so Saul goes to the city and stays.

Meanwhile the Lord has a message for another, Ananias, who is supposed to fetch Saul so the blindness that beset Saul can be healed. Ananias had little desire to do that as Saul’s reputation for persecuting the followers of Jesus had preceded him.

Nevertheless, The Lord prevailed and Ananias did as the Lord asked.

Acts 9:15-16 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and Israelites, and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name.”

Now, there are a few important lessons observed here that can be applied to us sober alcoholics. Ananias is an intermediary, he was chosen as an instrument by God to perform a certain task. The fact that he didn’t want to is relevant. His fear of what he knew of Saul was overcome by the importance God imparted to his mission. This is something we can all relate to. We need to do a certain thing, and would rather not. Perhaps because of what we know, or don’t know, but nevertheless there is resistance to doing it. The lesson here is that fear can be overcome by an awareness that it is God’s will that we are carrying out. Granted, it would be real convenient if God made His will known to us by a vivid dream or a booming voice heard in daylight, but He can make His will known in much quieter ways, if we only knew how to listen. Prayer is the best method of listening, and knowledge of Scripture and the Catechism can assist in guiding one’s mind (Is it really God’s will, or a self-delusion?).

The other important lesson is the obvious one. Saul’s conversion. I wrote about it once before, here.

God had a plan and a purpose for Saul (now Paul). That He picked a vicious persecutor of the followers of His Son is an indication that God’s assessment of His needs bear little resemblance to human reason. The Faith needed to spread out from the Palestinian Jewish lands where it wasn’t accepted and move out beyond, into the then known world. The early followers certainly would not have thought to seek out Paul, try and convert him to their agenda, and send him out. But for reasons known only to God, Paul was the perfect person for the task God chose him for, and he became the greatest convert Christianity ever knew, and was a major force for its eventual spread around the planet. God confounds the ways of the world.

Our own conversion from misbegotten drunks into sober alcoholics in the Catholic Faith may not have been momentous as Paul’s (but from a personal perspective it indeed may have seemed so), but nevertheless it did signal a change in our lives. What we once were, we no longer are. Our life path has changed and we are now on a new course. How we use this new opportunity depends on our resolve, our faith, and our openness to do God’s will. We can take a cue from Ananias, and toss aside our fears and go and do His will. We can also be like Paul, and embark upon a radically different life (remember, Paul was not just persecuting Christians, he was a well-educated Jew, a Pharisee, a keeper of the Law of Moses) and embrace what we previously opposed and abandon our old life entirely (not by any means equating Paul’s previous observant Jewish life with our drunken past. The symbolism of a complete turning away from old ways is meant here.).

We are on our own Road to Damascus. By whatever means that it occurred, we were disrupted from our old path to destruction and are now on a new path. Same road, different vehicle.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"