" The image of the master one glimpse and we are in love."
Zen Master Ikkyu : 1394-1481
" Oh my love for the first time in my life
My eyes are wide open
Oh my lover for the first time in my life
My eyes can see ..."
John Lennon and Yoko Ono 1971
" When evening falls so hard, I will comfort you. I'll take your part
Oh, when darkness comes and pain is all around ..."
Paul Simon 1969
The Conversion of St Paul : feastday January 25
Saul of Tarsus was absolutely sure he was right ; it seems just about everything . It is well known he was at the murder of St Stephen and the men who stoned Stephen to death , laid their garments at the feet of "a young man named Saul." Acts 7 : 54-60
Although I have written (painted) an icon of St Paul for the church named for him in Colorado Springs, I choose to show you this illustration of Jesus I did for a book called The People's Christmas by Gerald O'Collins, SJ, in 1984. Later I made it into a painting for my friend Jim Martin, SJ.
When Jesus appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus and the Light knocked him to the ground , he saw Love face to face . It literally blinded him, until he could begin the journey of shedding his certain knowledge and little by little, let the truth seep in. Now it would be not just knowledge of the mind , but also the face of Love and the overwhelming reinterpretation of everything he thought he knew. Some scholars have claimed it took him five years or so, to come into the blinding Love he had seen that day Jesus appeared to him. One of my favorite books on St Paul is by Rev. Robin Scroggs, "Paul For A New Day." It was the book that opened me to my first personal relationship to Paul while I was a theology student in Cambridge, Massachusetts from 76-79.
Conversion is of course, a continual process, a better word, is a continual deepening of love. We are not going to make it through these times without some growing conversion. Something, some ancient wisdom from countries all over the world is being told, actually shouted and screamed at us, as a very, very, young immature nation. If the recent women's marches were just in the US one could write them off as any number of words such as liberals, democrats, progressives etc. But these are world wide cities and nations of people who have been through centuries of suffering at the hands of governments or tyrannies we can't even imagine.
I myself was literally stunned and shocked to see marches in India, Antarctica, London, France, Africa, Belgrade, Melbourne, Lima, Macau, Mexico, Budapest, Georgia, Brazil, Canad, Holland , Belgium, New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Italy, Prague, Iraq, Tel Aviv, Spain, Portugal, Norway, Columbia, Finland, Guam, Thailand, Poland, Greece, Ireland, and most chilling of all...Germany. If we choose to ignore these Elders who have nothing to do with our tiny concepts of republicans and democrats, liberals and conservatives ... but are our elder sisters and brothers of the World warning us, and even then ...we refuse conversion ...we do so with incurable hard hearts.
For the great American author, the one to be recognized in Europe as our first American genius, Nathaniel Hawthorne, the greatest sin was a solid cold, hardened heart. He was the descendant of the infamous Judge Hathorne of Salem.
As Psalm 95 begs us and St. Paul to ...
"If today you hear His voice ........then harden not your hearts."
How much more do we need to know, do we need to hear, than the entire ancient cultures of the world speaking to us?
St Paul who once was Saul, continue to pray us into conversion. Pray for us to see the face of life and love that we may fall in love with Jesus in the same way given to you on that day of the beginning of your conversion.
Fr Bill McNichols