Acts 9:1-6 (7-20) • Ps. 30 • Rev. 5:11-14 • John 21:1-19
Saul is breathing threats against the church. He is not alone. “A portent appeared in the heaven: the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, so that he might devour the child as soon as it was born” (Rev. 12:3-4). “The dragon has no other aim than to ‘pursue’ the woman. We are now in the period of Christ. … This is precisely the age in which we live” (Hans Urs von Balthasar, Mary for Today, pp. 9-10). The holy child and the holy Church survive only by divine intervention. “The child was snatched away and taken to God and his throne” (Rev. 12:5).
Saul is breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord until light and voice stop him. “Suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him and he fell to the ground” (Acts 9:3,4). This divine light saves the Christians of Damascus, but it also saves Saul. Having become Paul, he articulates a profound insight regarding the union of Christ and the individual Christian. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). No doubt this fell as a seed into his soul the moment he heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4).
Immediately he is drawn into the paschal mystery, spending three days in darkness, without food and drink. Saul is dying. Through the ministration of Ananias, he rises again, a new man. Something like scales fall from his eyes. Lazarus, come forth! He gets up in resurrection, is baptized into the dying and rising of Christ, is fed the Eucharist of strength. So new is Saul that he speaks from the depth of a new humanity redeemed by Christ, announcing that “He is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20).
Christ comes ever new in morning light. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, while searching for ways to deepen Christian devotion for the ethical demands of a dangerous time, rediscovered an evangelical and strikingly monastic pattern of praying and living. “For Christians the beginning of the day should not be burdened and oppressed with besetting concerns for the day’s work. At the threshold of the new day stands the Lord who made it. … Let all distractions and empty talk be silenced and let the first thought and the first word belong to him to whom our whole life belongs” (Bonhoeffer, Life Together, p. 43).
Even now we discover him at dawn. “Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus” (John 21:4). He tells them to cast their nets on the other side, showing the generosity of his new life pouring into human need. He sups with them and beckons their love and tells them to feed his sheep. For in talking to Peter, he is talking to the whole fishing clan. Are we not haunted by the time of this meeting, daybreak? Here we notice a light that shines in the darkness (John 1:5).
“The dawn intimates that the night is over; it does not yet proclaim the full light of day. While it dispels the darkness and welcomes the light, it holds both of them, the one mixed with the other. … While we do some things which already belong to the light, we are not free from the remnants of darkness. … This dawn is aptly shown to be an ongoing process” (Gregory the Great, Moral Reflection on Job, Lib. 29, 2-4: PL 76, 478-480). Thus we are called to receive the light from moment to moment.
Look It Up
Read Acts 9:9. A Lenten retreat: blindness, hunger, and thirst.
Think About It
Dayspring is beautiful and blunt: The day begins, and you begin too.