Stories of Conversion

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The WORD in other words (2022) by Fr Flaviano Villanueva SVD – Catholic Trade Manila

Friday 3rd Week of Easter

Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Saul (Paul) getting back his sight with Ananias

Today’s first reading is one powerful drama. It presents three stories of conversion. 

1st Story of Conversion: From A Persecutor to A Witness

Saul was considered a wise, zealous, and fiery man. The problem was both his head and heart were in the wrong place. But, God continues to search, reach out, and even speak to him. “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me.” In our country’s present situation, the death toll of those killed by “extra-judicial killings,” as declared by the Philippine National Police (PNP), has reached 5,903 as of 06 Nov 2020. But this number doesn’t include the drug-related killings perpetuated most likely by police in civilian clothing and “riding in tandem.” More disheartening is the increase of killings even during this time of Covid-19 pandemic! The beautiful thing about Saul was he searched and heeded Jesus’ call. After Saul asked, “Who are you, Lord?” he heard a reply, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” He entered into a process of conversion. Thereafter, he was considered to be the great apostle and missionary to the Gentiles.

2nd Story of Conversion: From Fear to Courage

Very little is known about the person who nursed, consoled, and journeyed with Saul towards his conversion. Ananias may be said to be the first “caregiver to a whistleblower.” He was the first to provide a sanctuary to someone searching for the truth and would like to proclaim it amidst persecutions or even death. Naturally, Ananias was afraid and reluctant. But when God calls, he accompanies it always with grace and assurance. He assured Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:15-16). For the past four years, I have received several death threats and abduction attempts for defending the widows, orphans, and the oppressed. Ananias’ example lends me the courage and God’s assurance. “Go, defend life. Denounce the killings. Care for the victims. Bring my healing” are words that console me in times of fear and desolation.

3rd Story of Conversion

Based on the first two stories, the next story of conversion is still in the making. It’s a story of you and me. The Jews were arguing and quarreling in today’s Gospel about Jesus’ saying, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven.” But let there be no confusion or quarrel among us, this time. “Let us renounce the pettiness and resentment of useless in-fighting andconstant confrontation. Let us stop feeling sorry for ourselves and acknowledge our crimes, our apathy, our lies. Reparation and reconciliation will give us new life and set us all free from fear.” (Fratelli Tutti No. 78)

Let the Easter message be ingrained in our hearts and lives: “Jesus is Risen!” With a burning desire, let us encounter Jesus through his Word; let us lovingly yearn for him in the Eucharist and Sacraments; let us be fearlessly compassionate and grateful for the goodness we receive from our neighbors. We are the Pauls and Ananiases of today! Let our story of conversion begin!

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