As I opened to the website for this morning’s Scripture readings (www.usccb.org) I thought the readings sounded familiar. The first had Peter praising his listeners for their belief in Christ “even though you have not seen him” and the gospel was about “doubting Thomas” who wouldn’t believe in the Resurrection until he had seen Jesus himself. Easy to talk about what it takes to believe in something, I thought…and still think. But I realized as I began to write that I was looking at the readings for April, not May. Oh well, starting over is a concept with which I am familiar so I began to read the story for today from the Acts of the Apostles (16:22-34) and found it a conversion story like the others but a bit more dramatic. It’s a great story about Paul and Silas being stoned and put in jail in Philippi (not so great) and the earthquake that broke their chains and made the door of their cell fly open. What luck! Good luck for them – bad luck for the jailer who had been sleeping on the job and was ready to kill himself before his boss did for allowing the prisoners to escape. So how is this a conversion story? Paul and Silas were still in their cell urging the jailer not to do himself harm but rather to believe in what they had been trying to teach the people. He did believe, of course, and took them home to a good meal. In the end he was baptized with all of his household and became a witness to the power of God in human events. It is clear from Paul’s letters written later that many people from Philippi were converted, some probably because of the jailer’s witness, some through the energy and inspiration of Paul’s teaching and some, most assuredly, because of the stirrings of their own hearts touched by God that caused them to search for what resonated inside them.
So this morning’s message is the same, I guess – just amplified by another example. And I am reminded that, for many, conversion isn’t a one-step process. Rather, there is an initial event or conversation or inner longing that begins the search and then each day becomes an opportunity for going deeper, reaching for our truth, asking new questions…always awake and listening – and grateful for the search.