Grace + Repentance = Salvation – Friday, the third week in Easter – Acts 9:1-20/ John 6:52-59

Chapters eight, nine and ten of the Acts of the Apostles cover three conversion stories. Yesterday we heard of the conversion of the Eunuch of Candace at the hands of Philip the deacon and today we will hear of the conversion of Saul.

It must be said emphatically that every saint has a past and every sinner a future. If you find yourself believing that your soul is lost, then think again. St Paul may be romanticised today as one who was sent from heaven with angel wings but the fact is that he consented to murder and was responsible for the violent persecution of Christians sparing no one; woman or man.

This text deserves a repetitive reading to understand that God’s ways are not ours. Think of the one person you have spiritually ruled out of heaven. The one person you have damned in your heart to the fires of hell. For all you know, that is a Saul whom Jesus chooses to make a saint. Ananias was reluctant to go and heal Paul for he had condemned him in his heart, yet he is told to, “Get up and go” to a street called ‘straight’ for here the Lord has straightened out a crooked soul.

But sin requires a response. Sinners are called to repentance by Jesus. When that happens the grace of God flows through. God has no favourites; he may have a preferential option for sinners but his grace is available for all, provided grace is met with repentance. Grace + Repentance = Salvation. This is the formula for Christian life.

Saul would go to the ends of the world to defend his Jewish beliefs. Saul was a Pharisee but his misguided zealotry for the defense of the Jewish faith turned him into a murderer. Faith must be tempered with love. Zealotry and bigotry do not make us poster boys for the Christian faith, rather they leave an unpleasant taste of the faith in those who are even remotely attracted to Christ.  

But the Saul heading to Damascus could well be us heading to persecute a fellow Christian. We tend to think of persecution as merely an attack on the faith, an external attack. What we fail to realise is that often the persecution is also from amongst the flock. Satan supplies every evil thought and action to perpetuate such persecution within the Church leading to the greatest scandal of division within the sheepfold. It is better for those who have been led astray by satan to tie a millstone around their neck, for this persecution that they wage is against the very Body of Christ.

When Jesus confronted Saul on the way to Damascus, Our Lord said to him, “Saul why do you persecute me?” He did not say, ‘Why do you persecute my Church?’ The persecution of any Christian especially by another in the sheepfold is an attack on Christ. This truth must be said strongly and emphatically from every pulpit and even more to some in the pulpit who have let their earthly position blindfold their actions.

Saul of Tarsus is St. Paul of Heaven.  Our earthly address changes when we give our lives to God on earth. What is your address?

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