In the First Reading today (Acts 9:26-31), we discover “Saul” finally experiencing 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 like “karma” – when good things happen to good people- and bad things happen to bad people- actually happen and fall into place.
We only have to read the book of Job to see that the these “theories” collapse under the weight of evidence. and the teachings of Jesus (see, Luke 13:1-5).
There are two of several messages for us in today’s First Reading which deal with conversion and consequences. First, Saul had been completely changed by Jesus through his experience of the Risen Lord on his journey to Damascus. But even that change didn’t convince the disciples in Jerusalem to trust him; so, it took a believer, like Barnabas, to explain to them the reason for the change in Saul. Barnabas was open to seeing the power of the Lord at work in other people. We should be aware not to be like those disciples who put everyone into “little boxes” but ready to see changes in others.
Secondly, Saul (St. Paul) experienced penalties from his actions of proclaiming his new-found faith. He became a target of attack. This is always a possibility, even a probability for Christians today who boldly proclaim their faith- just look at what is happening in Syria and other middle Eastern countries who have been attacked for just being Christians. The question is whether we proclaim our faith or remain silent out of fear from inexperience with 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’re all called to keep the faith, profess it, and live it, even under persecution, because all these things are necessary for our salvation.