Today we celebrate the amazing feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. As many of you know, Paul was raised as a devout Jew and in his zeal for his own faith, persecuted those following Christ. You can read his personal account here.
If anyone would have asked Paul (then Saul) whether he would be having a conversion anytime soon and then die for the faith he was previously killing people for believing in, I doubt he would have seen anything like that coming. His whole life and destiny changed in an instant. On the way to persecute more Christians, he becomes one. Fascinating.
It makes we wonder if the apostles were already praying for him by name, as they followed the example of Jesus to pray for those who were persecuting them. Maybe in their hearts they never thought it would happen and then, lo, one day Jesus Himself converts one of their biggest persecutors. We can never count out the grace of God, even when all seems dark. The light always overcomes the darkness. Paul surrendered and the world has never been the same since.
I have been thinking a lot about surrender these last few years. I wonder why surrendering to God is so hard for us. We often hear people say, "Just surrender to God, He will take care of you." The Psalms are replete with the cry to entrust ourselves to God. In the Divine Office, one of the antiphons reads, "Surrender to God and He will do everything for you."
So why do we often find it so difficult to surrender? I was pondering the connotation that the word surrender has. Most often it is used in relation to an enemy or an opposing force-- for example, "The thief surrendered to the police" or "The troops surrendered to the invading army." The idea of surrender puts us in a very vulnerable or perhaps unfortunate position. After battling it out, one side surrenders to the more powerful force and is put at the mercy of the victor.This can be a scary situation, indeed.
Perhaps we can ask ourselves if we see God as the enemy, the one who is battling with us, imposing His will on us. Maybe we fear that if we "surrender" we will be put at the mercy of a cruel taskmaster. But these are ways of man, not God. These fears come from original sin and our own sin, not from God.
When we entrust ourselves to God, when we surrender, we place ourselves in a position to receive mercy. We put ourselves at the mercy of Mercy Himself. Mercy means, "tender compassion." We become vulnerable and open to the One who washes the feet of His disciples who will be betray Him. We behold the One who most vulnerably and openly hangs naked on the Cross so we can be forgiven. His words to His Father to "forgive them, for they know not what they do" weren't platitudes on correct behavior but the cry of the One who loves and longs and thirsts for you and for me. He loves us. Oh, how He loves us.
As we journey toward Lent, let us allow Jesus, the Beloved One, to come closer to us. Let us allow Him to whisper to our heart of His deepest desires for us. May we hear Him there, knocking upon the door of our heart and then waiting for our response. If we open the door even a little bit, we will be amazed at the beauty He pours in.