Saul was a man on a mission, obsessed, driven to stamp out the followers of Jesus, that upstart troublemaker. Today’s first reading recounts one version of his story.
He became Paul, the one sent to bring Good News to the Gentiles, to the very people he used to consider unclean and unworthy of God’s love.
What a difference a blinding vision (and a few days to mull it over) can make!
Saul, the zealot feared by many, became Paul, a man on fire with zeal for the message and mission of Jesus the Christ, the very One who had turned his world inside out. He experienced a time of transition – of major upheaval – when the world as he knew it seemed to be imploding, when all his certainties evaporated. (Sound familiar?)
I wonder what Paul thought and felt as he looked back, years later. Perhaps he remembered that upside-down time as the soil in which wisdom took root, the fertile ground of his transformation. It seems from his letters (e.g., 1 Corinthians 15) that he viewed his time of transition, with its earth-shaking, soul-shifting vulnerability, as a special grace, a unique way that God had touched and called him. Of course, that awareness happened well after the fact – as it usually does.
Transition reminds us that we’re vulnerable, flawed, possibly blind to the new. It can awaken us to our need to depend on and learn from one another, to let ourselves be loved even though we’re not perfect. If we let it, transition can open us to the inner conversion that first has to happen within, if any of our efforts to transform the world “out there” are to bear fruit.
And as branches of the Vine which is Christ, that is precisely what we were made for: to flourish, to bear good fruit and share it with others. That power is ours, if only we remain on the living Vine, and remain open to the next transition that the Spirit has in store for us.
What have your times of transition taught you? How are you being transformed through our current transitions: the Covid-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, the uncovering of racial and economic injustices in hearts and social systems?
– Sr. Regina Bechtle
Sr. Regina, a writer, retreat leader, speaker and spiritual director, serves as Charism Resource Director for the Sisters of Charity of New York.