Friday, December 26, 2008

Still watching Stephen

At Mass, I was struck by the vivid red of the priest's vestments: the same deep red as the poinsettias. And Saul's presence at Stephen's martyrdom, too. In fact, as I walked to St. Peter's, I was remembering a phrase from the 2nd or 3rd retelling of St. Paul's conversion story (it is told 3 times in the book of Acts). As Paul is telling the story, the Lord didn't just appear to him on the road to Damascus and say, "Why are you persecuting me?" He also commented, "It is hard for you to kick against the goad."
What goad?
Could it be that one of the "goads" the Lord had sent to lead Saul into the Christian community had been precisely the "wisdom and spirit with which he [Stephen] spoke"? Was Saul resisting the faith that comes from hearing? He may have been glad to be rid of the preacher Stephen (little suspecting what else the Lord had up his sleeve).
I want to keep reflecting on this; that the Lord took his time with Saul, worked on his case, gave him several chances to respond to grace... It didn't all happen on the road to Damascus.


Fred said...

Sometimes conversion takes a long time...the Lord is patient. I know. I always find it interesting when listening to people's stories is how many times the Lord calls never gives up. We could make life so much easier for ourselves if we were to give in, but then maybe that's the lesson we are called to in the Lord, he keeps his promises far better than we keep ours...
Father Fred, CMF

Anonymous said...

Conversion requires change of previous thought patterns, and encompassing a 'new' way to look at things. We humans don't only think with our grey matter, but incorporate the feelings, emotions, tactile, visual, auditory experiences, etc. into our very being to make a 'change'. Changing a way or thought process might even involve uptake of neurotransmitters for receptors that have previously been down-regulated! Who knows? We SHOULD think that conversion takes time to mull, share, and come to new conclusions. This is why, when we seek to serve as examples to others we need to be consistent with our actions. Eh? Sr. Anne? But, our dear Lord inspires us to faithfulness; Jesus has shown charity, as we supply the hope.

xaipe said...

Yes, Anon! We've tended to make St. Paul the "model" of conversion because of the dramatic shift in his life, but putting all the conversion eggs into one basket on the road to Damascus may leave us with the impression that the ideal conversion happens all at once. We forget that St. Paul himself said that he was not a finished product, but that he was continuing to "race forward" toward the fullness of life God had called him for. We are all to live in continual conversion. (That's why we have the Sacrament of Penance--the sacramental experience, and the sacramental grace, can help continue the transformation of our neural networks, so that every fiber of our being can be conformed to Christ!)