Memorial of Saint Stanislaus, bishop and martyr
With the jubilee year of St. Paul fast approaching, we can reflect for a few minutes on his conversion. Of course, the reading from Acts today tells its story. But today’s reading is just one of four accounts the New Testament gives of the event. Paul himself writes about it in the Letter to the Galatians which must be considered the most reliable source. The two other accounts are taken from speeches of Paul also recorded in Acts. One interesting note is that none of the four accounts mentions that Paul was knocked off a horse on the way to Damascus. That detail probably comes from a painter’s depiction of the conversion. A more curious element is the light which supposedly blinded Paul.
Did Paul actually see a light or is this reference a metaphor meaning that Paul came to know the truth? In Galatians Paul does not tell of any light. He only says that God revealed His Son to him. This reference indicates a vision of the resurrected Jesus which Paul twice claims he had in his first letter to the Corinthians. Perhaps Jesus appeared to Paul wrapped in light. Matthew describes Jesus in this way when he describes the Transfiguration which is traditionally interpreted as a glimpse of Jesus’ future resurrection.
At the Easter Vigil services this year Pope Benedict baptized Magdi Allam, a 55 year-old Italian journalist who was raised a Muslim. In a letter to the newspaper of which he is deputy director, Mr. Allam wrote of his conversion as “finally (seeing) the light.” The journalist went on to say that he received death threats for turning to Christ just as Paul did. Reading the letter, we get the idea that significant forces within Islam are intent on terrorizing people into accepting what they cannot in conscience believe. Paul, of course, never evangelized in this way although in history other men did so in the name of Christ. As Christians seeing the light have apologized for the sin of fanaticism among ancestors, we can pray that the light of respect and peace penetrate the consciousness of all Muslim brothers and sisters.