As Saul of Tarsus begins his crusade against those of “The Way,” he is stricken and hears a voice saying, “Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” See, to persecute individual Christians is to persecute the Church, which is the body of Christ. Thus, to persecute an individual Christian is to persecute Christ Himself. In Ephesians, St Paul teaches us that “the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the Church, and He is the savior of the body…we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones” (Ephesians 5:23,30). Whoever persecutes or defiles the Church or any of her members persecutes Christ Himself. Thus Saul was guilty not of attacking merely human beings, but of attacking the Church, and thus Christ Himself.
And because of this, we see Saul stricken by blindness. This blindness serves as a perfect illustration of what Jesus taught. In the Gospel of John the Theologian, the words of Jesus, “For judgment I have come into the world, that those who do not see may see, and whose who see may be made blind.” (John 9:39). As long as Saul was seeing through his own perspective, with earthly eyes, he was to remain blind. Only by having his earthly vision removed was he able to see Christ in His glory.
This teaching is of unparalleled importance to us. So often, though many of us claim to walk by faith and not by sight; we lean solely on what we are able to see physically, with our own eyes. Our minds become so clouded with logic that we leave no room for faith. We may mentally assent to doctrines of faith, but in reality, we, like the Eunomians, live our lives only in accordance with what is tangible. When bills beckon, giving alms seems illogical. Saving money for retirement seems prudent, whereas giving that money to those in need seems foolish. We can accept that Jesus died and was resurrected 2000 years ago, but have a hard time accepting that He arises everyday in our lives. We acknowledge that the Holy Spirit can help someone stop smoking, but not that He has the supernatural power to literally change our lives. We can believe that the stories we read in Scripture are true, but refuse to believe that those same miracles can happen today.
CHRIST IS RISEN! Not 2000 years ago, but every day of our life! His resurrection story is true, and real, every day, not merely on Easter.
We read that, at this point, Christ sends Ananias to restore Saul’s sight. When he arrives, he lays hands on Saul, and it states that “something like scales fell from his eyes.” And we can fully believe that this is possible. We fully believe that Ananias laid his hands on Saul and Saul was healed of his blindness. But, we doubt whenever we hear of someone in our age performing the same miracle. Has this healing power of the Spirit been fraudulently claimed in our age? Of course it has. St Paul warns us of those who will “see godliness as a means of profit.” But, do we dismiss these powers of the Holy Spirit merely because of the avarice of certain manipulative devils? Of course not! We are told to test the spirits to see that they are of God, but not to wholly dismiss all of them. To do so would be blasphemy against the powers of the Holy Spirit Himself.
After receiving his sight, Scripture tells us that Saul was baptized. It’s important to note that although he had received a direct revelation from God, he still submitted to Holy Baptism. Saul, who had heard the voice of God audibly, with his own human ears, still submitted to the baptism of the Church.
Another very important lesson that we can derive from this passage is this; Saul was physically blinded that he might spiritually see. However, when Ananias arrived, Paul was not compulsed in any way to accept the faith. He had every freedom to remain spiritually blinded had he so chosen. His vision was restored prior to the restoration of his earthly sight. Jesus never wanted the one to be contingent on the other. He closed Saul’s eyes so that he could see the truth, and then opened them again once that revelation was fulfilled. Otherwise, sending Ananias would have been meaningless. We know that it was not Ananias who healed Saul, but rather the power of Christ. He sent Ananias so that, had Saul chosen to accept the faith, Ananias was there to perform the baptism. He sent Ananias to unite Saul not with Christ, but with the Church.
Each of us stands, or has stood, in Saul’s exact position. The darkness is ubiquitous in our lives and attempts to tempt us with it’s answers. And it’s answers are carnal, appealing, earthly, and temporary. At the same time, however, Jesus stands at the door knocking. And each of us must choose, as did Saul, which path we will choose. Will we continue in our spiritual blindness, or will we, as did Saul, embrace whatever the cost will be for us, whatever we must suffer, to bear the name of Christ.
Christ is in our midst!