Today’s commemoration of the conversion of St. Paul on the road to Damascus has entered the public imagination in ways that go beyond Church circles or even Christianity.
We often refer to our own “Damascus” experience to describe our own sudden and dramatic about-faces on serious matters. We talk about suddenly “seeing the light” when we come to new wisdom or understanding that changes our lives for the better.
In the context of our faith, of course, we think of these as gifts of grace, freely given to us by God. Our encounters with the Spirit crack through our hard external defences, forcing us to face truth no matter how hard we resist. It is all part of our walk to spiritual maturity.
Yet few of us ever actually experience such dramatic episodes. No falling off horses, flashes of blinding light or transcendent encounters. This does not mean that God does not enter our lives, though.
In fact, for most of us, the Spirit is continually, even daily, carrying on a campaign of conversion for each of us. It can happen so subtly that we might miss its import. It can happen on the street, in our office and at the family dinner table.
We may have this encounter in prayer, meditation or while in solitary pursuits. But I believe a more common factor is a confrontation with God in others. We all know that God uses each of us to do His work. In fact, we pray he will use us. But too often we don’t recognize when God is sending a message to us through the very person we are talking to at a particular moment.
Yet we need to be knocked off our metaphorical horses now and again. Look what it did for St. Paul.