January 25, 2009

Reflected Glory

'Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" He asked, "Who are you, Lord?" The reply came, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do." The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." He answered, "Here I am, Lord." The Lord said to him, "Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight." But Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name." But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name." So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, "He is the Son of God."' - Acts 9:1-20

This must be one of the most enthralling stories in the whole of the scriptures. Where to dig in? There are so many possibilities! Discuss Saul of Tarsus' fire-breathing zeal turned into the zeal of Paul the Apostle. What does it mean to me that, when Saul persecutes the early Christians, he is persecuting the Lord himself? What about the implications of Saul's blindness?

But here's what strikes me most today: The person of Ananias. He is a footnote, really. Paul is a figure of heroic proportions in the life of the early church. His influence on world history as the apostle to the Gentiles is immeasurable. Then there is Ananias.

First, it is impossible to ignore the scriptural echo with last Sunday's first reading, from 1 Samuel, where Eli the priest, when he realizes that young Samuel is being called by the Lord, instructs him to reply, "Here I am." Here is Ananias, with the same reply, "Here I am, Lord." Samuel, in the end, is called to anoint the king -- first Saul, then, in turn, David. Ananias is given a similar call -- anointing another Saul, through the laying on of hands, in the name of the King of Kings.

Apart from this singular act, Ananias evaporates into history. His glory is reflected at infinite remove; he is the man who invokes the Holy Spirit upon Paul, who reflects the glory of Christ, who reflects the glory of Almighty God. And yet, without the obedience of Ananias, who courageously makes his way to the street called Straight against all reason and good sense, Paul the Apostle remains Saul of Tarsus, neither eating nor drinking, his eyes covered with scales. Did Ananias ever even know what he had done?

Today, I ask God that I might be given the faith of Ananias. I ask that I may be given the grace to serve in obscurity; to say, "Here I am," whenever the Lord decides to call; to obey irrespective of reason or common sense. That I may somehow reflect his glory, at infinite remove.

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