Grace to you!
You are probably familiar with this biblical question, "Why are you persecuting me?" The Lord Jesus Christ addressed it to Saul, who later became Paul. As we know, it was when Saul was headed to Damascus to arrest and bring back to Jerusalem believers in the Lord to execute them. The Lord appeared to him in a vision and asked him the question.
Saul didn't know whose voice it was, so he asked to know who it was. The Lord Jesus replied, "I am Jesus, who you are persecuting." (Read Acts 9:1-20 for details)
Whenever I read that story, just like many other events in the Bible, it has a new meaning for me.
Saul was from Tarsus. He was a tentmaker, as well as a smart attorney. He was also extremely enthusiastic about defending the Law of Moses. Because of his belief, temperament, and influence, he took the lead to exterminate the early Church. He was ignorant of the implications of what he was doing. He taught he was doing something good for God.
From this story, we know how Jesus feels when his body, the Church, is maligned and persecuted. We also understand the depth of the relationship of the believers—as the Body of Christ—with Christ. Believers, as the Body of Christ, are in him, and he is in them.
This truth is more vivid at the Eucharist when we eat the body and drink the blood of Jesus. As the Lord Jesus said, "He who eats my bread and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him" (Jn 6:56).
The above story about Saul makes me ponder how the Lord would be looking at us when we, as members of his body, tear each other apart. It is sad to see how many believers today are so negative and polarizing.
In days past, it was unbelievers who vehemently attacked the Church for obvious reasons. Today, on social media and various media platforms, it is from the members of the Church that the most considerable vitriol against the Body of Christ populates. It is believers and faith-based organizations tearing each other apart in the cyberspace. It is believers calling each other names, using words any decent person can't even use against anyone. At the same time, unbelievers watch and feast on the spoil. Instead of being the light of the world, we have let worldly ways of hate, resentment, bitterness, and hypercriticality become our torchbearer.
From within the Church, we wash our dirty linens in public, claiming we are pointing out errors. Indeed, we should correct errors. But doing so with digital texts, sounds, images, and videos across the web dominated by people who do not share in our faith tradition isn't a sign of virtue. Much more, it is a disgrace to the Body of Christ if we are thrilled to draw traffic on our online media platforms through this or similar tactics. The Lord would speak from heaven, "why are you persecuting me?"
I wonder what has become of the Christian virtue of piety. I wonder where has gone the traditional virtues of charity. Saint Paul tells us we can have the most outstanding of charisms and speak with the most prophetic of voices, but without true love, Christian charity, it is all empty (1 Cor 13:1-3).
Growing up reading the lives of the saints and falling in love with their exemplary Christian lives, one of the no-noes I learned was to avoid a censorious spirit. This spirit looks for faults and is quick to criticize. Such spirits persecute Christ instead of building the Church.
May we learn from the story of the conversion of Saul, that we are Christ's Body. May we help build this Church. May we help, united with Christ and the rest of the Body of Christ, heal and bind the wounds of this body.
Please pray with me, Lord me an instrument of your healing grace wherever I find myself. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Friday, Easter Week 3: Act 9:1-20; Jn 6:52-59]
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu Ph.D., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.