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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[Acts 9:1–30]

SAUL, still breathing threats and slaughter against the disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, went to the High Priest, and asked him for letters to Damascus, that he might bring the disciples whom he found there prisoners to Jerusalem.

As he journeyed on the road to Damascus, suddenly a great light from heaven shone around him. Struck as if by lightning, he fell to the ground. At the same moment, he heard a voice saying: “Saul, Saul, why dost thou persecute Me?” Saul asked: ‘Who art Thou, Lord?” The voice replied: “I am Jesus, whom thou dost persecute.” Trembling with fear, and much astonished, Saul said: “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” The Lord replied: “Arise, and go into the city, and there it shall be told thee what thou must do.”

Saul rose up from the ground and opened his eyes, but he had lost his sight1. His companions then took him by the hand and led him into the city. There he remained three days without eating or drinking.

Now, there dwelt in Damascus a certain disciple of Jesus, named Ananias. The Lord appeared to him in a vision, saying: “Arise, and go into the street that is called Strait, and seek, in the house of Judas, Saul of Tarsus, for, behold, he prayeth.”

Ananias answered: “Lord, I have heard from many of this man, how great evils he hath done to Thy saints at Jerusalem.” The Lord said to him: “Go, for this man is a vessel of election to Me, to carry My Name before the Gentiles1, and kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how great things he must suffer1 for the sake of My Name.”

Ananias went, and entering into the house where Saul was, he laid his hands upon him, and said: “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus hath sent me, He who appeared to thee in the way as thou camest, that thou mayest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.” And suddenly there fell from the eyes of Saul, as it were, scales, and he received his sight, and, rising up, was baptized. Immediately he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus was the Son of God.

The Divinity of Jesus Christ. The story of Saul’s conversion bears testimony in several ways to the divinity of our Lord. 1. Saul himself saw our Lord Jesus in glory, and was thus, like Stephen, an eye-witness of His Godhead. 2. Saul repeatedly addressed Jesus as “Lord”, that is, God, and preached in Damascus that “Jesus is the Son of God”. 3. The marvellous and sudden conversion of Saul shows the omnipotence of Jesus, for only God can turn the hearts of men. 4. Our Lord also appeared to Ananias, and foretold to him certain things which afterwards came to pass, namely, that Saul would preach the Name of Jesus before Jews and Gentiles, and that he would suffer much for His sake. 5. Ananias confessed Him to be God, addressing Him as “Lord”, and saying to Saul: “The Lord Jesus hath sent me.” 6. Ananias was sent by Jesus, and in His Name he worked a great miracle, for by the touch of his hand Saul recovered his sight. He who, in spite of all these proofs and testimonies, does not believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ, is indeed inexcusable.

The Mercy of Jesus. Our Lord loved Saul, who hated and persecuted Him. He sought him out and enlightened him at the very moment when he was most thirsting for blood and was least deserving of grace. He did not speak to him in a terrifying manner, but with loving words of expostulation. He did not punish him, but forgave him all his sins, accepted him as a disciple, and even raised him to be an apostle. When He was on earth, Jesus was merciful to sinners, and lovingly went in search of His lost sheep; and, now that He is in glory in heaven, He is as full as ever of compassion and mercy towards sinners.

The power of divine grace. Our Blessed Lord prevented Saul with His grace, enlightened his understanding, moved his heart, and prepared his will to do all that was commanded him. In the very midst of his sinful career grace called to Saul to stop, and changed his heart so completely that the bitter enemy of Jesus Christ was transformed into an apostle, all aglow with love; and the persecutor of the Christian faith became its indefatigable defender and advocate. Thus St. Paul was able to say of himself: “By the grace of God I am what I am; and His grace in me hath not been void, but I have laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God with me” (1 Cor. 15:10).

We must correspond with grace if we wish to be saved. In the passage just quoted St. Paul says: “God’s grace in me hath not been void.” In other words, it was effectual because, instead of resisting it, he co-operated with it. He did not shut his soul to the light of grace, but believed and submitted himself to the will of God. He repented of his sins, fasted, prayed, and prepared himself for holy Baptism. And after he was a Christian he did not fear the scorn and hatred of the Jews, but fearlessly confessed and preached the Christian faith.

Prayer for sinners. The Church has always held the belief that the conversion of Saul was in answer to the prayer of St. Stephen. Thus St. Augustine writes: “Stephen’s prayer was already granted even while Saul was still raging.” We should, therefore, never despair of the conversion of a sinner, be he never so far removed from God, for the mighty grace of God can change his heart at any moment. Let us then pray for sinners with zeal and with confidence, that God may grant to them the grace of conversion.

Whoever persecutes the Church, persecutes Jesus Christ. It was the disciples of Jesus whom Saul was persecuting, and yet our Lord said to him: “Why persecutest thou Me?” Did Saul, then, in any way injure our Lord in the glory of heaven? No, but he was persecuting the disciples on account of their Lord, and because they believed in Him and loved Him. Now, in the same way that our Blessed Lord regards the smallest act of kindness done to his disciples for His sake, as done to Himself, so does He count the injuries done to His followers on His account, and because of their faith in Him, exactly as if they were done personally to Himself.

Sanctifying grace. Saul received sanctifying grace, if not by his perfect contrition, certainly by his Baptism, and was justified by it; that is, after his Baptism he was no longer a sinner, but a child and friend of God, and an heir to heaven.

Good works performed in a state of sin. During the three days before he was baptized, Saul fasted rigorously and prayed without ceasing. He was perhaps all this time in a state of sin, for he had not yet received holy Baptism and with it sanctifying grace. Were then his works of prayer and penance of no value? No! they were not without value, for they obtained for him the grace of a greater knowledge of himself, a deeper sense of contrition, and an ardent desire for Baptism and reconciliation with God; all of which prepared him better for the reception of the holy Sacrament of regeneration.

Christians should be Saints. Ananias called the disciples in Jerusalem “saints”. And why? Because they had been made holy in Baptism, and led holy lives.

APPLICATION. You too have persecuted and injured your Divine Lord by sins against your neighbours who are His disciples. Have you deeply repented of these sins as Saul did, and amended your ways as sincerely as he did? Make a firm resolution never again to commit a wilful sin. Remember whom you offend when you sin, even your Lord and Saviour, the King of everlasting glory. Often make the ejaculation: “My Jesus, mercy!”








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