My Meditations on St. Paul
BY: Rev. James E. Sullivan
The Conversion of Saul: Humiliation, A Friend
Saul stood before the High Priest in Jerusalem to receive the commendation and gratitude of the Sanhedrin for his efforts to stamp out the new heresy. But the young Pharisee didn’t look pleased. Many had escaped to Samaria and Syria, he explained. He couldn’t rest until he had hunted them down and removed all traces of Christianity. Could he have letters to the synagogues of Damascus, giving him authority there? The High Priest was glad to comply. What a noble upholder of the Law they had in Saul!
Saul gathered together a small band of zealous men who helped him in Jerusalem, and together they rode off to Damascus. He was occupied with his own thoughts as they rode along. It felt good to have the admiration of the High Priest and the Sanhedrin. The sense of his own importance and goodness made him sit very straight in the saddle. Near noon of the second day the approached the western gate of Damascus. Suddenly a bright light- brighter than the sun –surrounded them. Saul fell from his horse, holding his hands over his eyes. “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” The voice was strong, yet gentle. Saul looked up- almost expecting to see Stephen –and saw the risen, glorified Jesus. “Who are you Lord?” Saul’s voice was trembling. “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” Saul’s eyes closed, half in shame, half in dread. “Lord, what will you have me do?” “Arise,” Jesus told him, “and go into the city and it shall be told to you what you must do.” Saul arose and opened his eyes. He couldn’t see! He called fearfully to his companions. They came and took his horse and led him through the gate of the city. Onlookers who watched the pitiable scene did not recognize the important Pharisee from Jerusalem.
Dear Master, there was only one way to turn the proud, self-assured Pharisee into a humble “vessel of election”- humiliation! He had to be “knocked from his high horse,” his heart split open by embarrassment and humiliation, before Your grace could enter in. Otherwise, he could never be led to question his set convictions, never could have admitted that he might be wrong and the Christians right. His pride, like armor-plating, would have deflected the arrows of grace as they were the toys of a child. Humiliation alone was able to pierce that armor and pour into the broken heart Your healing, saving grace. From arrogant pride to humility there is just no other passage than the road to Damascus!
Lord, how blind I have been! I see what unspeakable good humiliation and sorrow did for Saul, yet I forget that it can do the very same for me. Forget!- more than that, Lord, I resent it terribly when you let me make foolish mistakes and people laugh at me- get upset when I am left out of a group or am not the center of attention. I am fit to be tied when teasing goes too far and I am made to look stupid or inconsistent. And why? Because I forget that my Father is watching over me. I forget that He has many tools to make me holy. Lord, open my eyes! Let me wee that humiliation in God’s Providence can be a friend, can pierce my ignorance and pride and make me humble.
“How else may man make straight his plan and free his soul from sin? How else but through a broken heart can the Lord Christ enter in?”