I almost disregarded the first reading from today’s lectionary (ACTS 9:1-20) – not because it held nothing worthy of comment but because it seemed so familiar. I know the story of Paul’s conversion and know that it appears in the liturgical calendar more than once a year. I decided, however, to read it again for a possible point of inspiration and, of course, I was not disappointed.
What struck me this morning was the response of Ananias when he was told in a vision to go and get Paul from the house on Straight Street and lay hands on him so that Paul would regain his sight. Ananias was not pleased to have been given this task for two reasons. He had heard from others about the evil Paul had perpetrated against the people of Jerusalem and, secondly, in Damascus Paul had authority from the chief priests to imprison the followers of Jesus. It was unthinkable to him that the Lord would choose Paul as an instrument for spreading the news of Christ. Good arguments, to be sure, but in the end, at the final command, “Go,” he went.
So I’m thinking about how difficult it is sometimes to follow the laws that Christ has set before us, laws of love and compassion and generosity to those we think do not deserve to be helped. It would sometimes be easier to ignore the grumpy people, the lazy ones or those whose politics do not mirror our own. Surrender of our own sense of righteousness is rarely easy. Sometimes, however, in the surrender we find small – or great – miracles. After all, it was Ananias who became the instrument of Saul’s cure. As soon as he laid hands on Paul, announcing he was sent by the Lord, the scales fell from Paul’s eyes and he was baptized.
What might happen if we determined to welcome all those above-mentioned people whom we would rather avoid? What might we learn from engagement in their lives? How much larger might our own lives become because of the merits of diversity we would gain? And what if we resisted judging people because others had told us what they were like rather than seeing them for ourselves? Let us think on these things…