In the First Reading today (Acts 9:26-31), we discover that “Saul” finally experiences what he had been doing himself: the Jewish “persecutor-hunter” has now become the Christian “hunted” because some of the Greek-speaking Jews with whom he had been debating in Jerusalem, now want to kill him. But this is not a time where "theories" such as “karma” – that good things will happen to good people - come into play. One only has to read the book of Job to see that the “prosperity principle” collapses under the weight of evidence. The reverse “hardship principle” also falls by the wayside, after the teachings of Jesus (see, Luke 13:1-5).
Two of the several messages for us in today’s First Reading deal with transformation and consequences. First, Saul had been completely transformed by Jesus through his experience of the Risen Lord on his journey to Damascus. But even that transformation did not convince the disciples in Jerusalem to trust him; so it took a believer like Barnabas to explain to them the change in Saul. Barnabas was receptive to seeing the power of the Lord at work in other people. Are we like those disciples and put everyone in “little boxes” or are we also receptive of changes in others?
Secondly, Saul (St. Paul) did in fact experience consequences from his actions of proclaiming his new-found faith. He became a target for attack. This is always a possibility, even a probability for Christians today who proclaim their faith boldly - just look at what is happening in Syria with the attacks from IS against Christians. The question is whether we proclaim our faith, remain silent from fear or from ignorance of our scripture and tradition.
The Church is almost “guaranteed” persecution, those trials that will come to help her become perfected in obedience to Christ. There will even be a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers - maybe it is happening already. Nevertheless, we are all called to keep the faith, profess it, and live it, even under persecution, because all these things are necessary for salvation.