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Saul to Paul – A Springtime Journey

As I sit to write this reflection, outside my window the signs of Spring are becoming ever more apparent.  While there is still an early morning chill in the air, the sun feels like it is getting stronger every day, snow is melting and there are buds on the trees.  Once again, God is fulfilling the promise of transforming death into life.  As someone who is not an avid gardener, and as my Grade 10 Biology teacher, Mr. Johnson, will attest to, not well versed in the cycles that govern nature, the witnessing of this rebirth never ceases to amaze me.

This rebirth, or transformation, which is so evident in nature, is also happening over and over again in all of our lives.  There is no better illustration of this than in the story of Saul’s transformation into Paul.  We get a tiny bit of the story in our first reading this week.  Saul is coming to Jerusalem ready to join the disciples in their mission to spread the Good News.  He is fresh off a rather personal encounter with Jesus and brings an exuberance for the job that you would think would be welcomed by the other disciples.  Only one problem; his reputation has preceded him.  We are told that they were “afraid of him” and that “they didn’t believe that he was a disciple.”  I guess that’s what happens when you spend your life persecuting something that you now claim to be an advocate for.

The reaction of the disciples reminds me of something an old boss of mine used to say when he would speak about checking references when hiring new employees.  He would say: “the best indication of future behaviour is past behaviour.”  While this may be true in some aspects of our lives, because we are creatures of habit, I don’t think it is true when it comes to the really important stuff.  When I look back at my own journey, I can see how my own thoughts and judgments have evolved over time.  In many cases, what used to be black and white is now, like my hair, increasingly grey, especially when it comes to dealing with people.  Like the disciples in our reading, I would often allow things I heard from other people about an individual form my judgment of this person before I had ever met them.  While I am sure these folks were trying to do me a favour by giving me a “heads up” about this person, it was giving no room for the possibility that God had helped them to grow and transform into a new person.  Not only is that not fair, it can rob us of the chance to encounter someone whose life story can truly inspire us.  Imagine where Christianity would be today if the disciples had not let Saul continue his journey to becoming Paul.

So as we welcome Spring and all the wonderful newness it brings, let’s also leave room for welcoming the new people that God will put in our lives.  Some of whom we’ve known for quite some time.

Mark Mahoney

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