Seeing the Light

Paul addressed the people in these words:
“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia,
but brought up in this city.
At the feet of Gamaliel I was educated strictly in our ancestral law
and was zealous for God, just as all of you are today.
I persecuted this Way to death,
binding both men and women and delivering them to prison.
Even the high priest and the whole council of elders
can testify on my behalf.
For from them I even received letters to the brothers
and set out for Damascus to bring back to Jerusalem
in chains for punishment those there as well.

“On that journey as I drew near to Damascus,
about noon a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me.
I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me,
‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
I replied, ‘Who are you, sir?’
And he said to me,
‘I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.’
My companions saw the light
but did not hear the voice of the one who spoke to me.
I asked, ‘What shall I do, sir?’
The Lord answered me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus,
and there you will be told about everything
appointed for you to do.’
Since I could see nothing because of the brightness of that light,
I was led by hand by my companions and entered Damascus.

“A certain Ananias, a devout observer of the law,
and highly spoken of by all the Jews who lived there,
came to me and stood there and said,
‘Saul, my brother, regain your sight.’
And at that very moment I regained my sight and saw him.
Then he said,
‘The God of our ancestors designated you to know his will,
to see the Righteous One, and to hear the sound of his voice;
for you will be his witness before all
to what you have seen and heard.
Now, why delay?
Get up and have yourself baptized and your sins washed away,
calling upon his name.'”
(Acts 22:3-16)

Scripture Study

22:3 I am a Jew Paul proudly proclaims he is a Jew. This emphasizes to the audience that the allegations against him are false. born in Tarsus in Cilicia Paul uses this rhetoric to emphasize that Tarsus was a city known for scholarship and culture. Paul’s citizenship and the identity of his hometown show that he is not a rebel as the officer in charge may have thought. brought up in this city Paul had evidently moved to Jerusalem as a young man and studied under Gamaliel (see 5:34).

22:5 high priest Paul was well known among the nation’s elite.

22:7 I fell to the ground Paul’s reaction matches the reactions of those in the OT who have divine encounters (e.g., Ezek 1:28; Dan 10:9). Saul, Saul This experience of Jesus’ glory is so overwhelming that it forces Saul to the ground.

22:8 the Nazarene Earlier, Acts records a shorter statement, leaving out this phrase (9:5), which was one way Jesus was identified (e.g., 2:22; 3:6; 4:10; 6:14).

22:9 not hear Paul’s description echoes Dan 10:7, where people around the prophet could not understand the entire event but knew the vision was terrifying. Compare Acts 9:7.

22:12 a devout observer of the law Since Ananias, an upstanding Jew, approved of Paul, then other Jews should not object.

22:14 God of our ancestors Reinforces that the God who commissioned Paul is the God of Israel, Yahweh. This phrase is used in the OT to refer to Yahweh and to His promises (compare Deut 1:11; 26:7). the Righteous One This title is used in the prophecy of the Suffering Servant in Isa 53:11, to refer to how the Suffering Servant makes others right before Yahweh via His death and resurrection (Isa 53:10).

22:15 his witness This matches Jesus’ original commission at the beginning of Acts (see 1:8). Compare 9:15–16.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today we reflect on the significance of the conversion of St. Paul. Paul’s encounter on the road to Damascus was an answer to this question: when would God gather the nations and through Israel bring his rule to the whole world? When Paul met Jesus he realized that the promises of God had been fulfilled, that the expectations of the prophets had been met—but in a most unexpected and extraordinary way.

He knew from his tradition that God, through Israel, would deliver the world from sin, gather the nations, and establish peace and justice everywhere. That was the hope. The usual version of that hope was something like an avenging military and political ruler like Solomon or David, or a great lawgiver and leader like Moses.

What Paul saw in Jesus was someone greater than Moses, Solomon, or David—and someone wholly unexpected. God is establishing his justice, his right order, his way, through a crucified and risen criminal, and now returned from the dead? Forgiveness, compassion, nonviolence, having no truck with the ways of death? This is God’s justice, and it judges all of the fallen powers and kingdoms of the world.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.