When we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.” I asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The Lord answered, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and testify to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you.
- Acts, 26: 14-16
This is the third time St. Paul, the apostle, testifies to his inspiring and dramatic conversion experience on the road to Damascus. Indeed, he had been persecuting Christians, even serving as an accomplice in the stoning of the first Christian martyr, Stephen. While he threw no stones, he was helping out. In Louisiana he would have gotten 20 years to life.
But of all people, Jesus chose him, Paul, to spread the love of Christ to the Gentiles. That was his special mission. My Kairos prison ministry has helped me understand why Paul—the sinner—was chosen to carry forth this special and essential work. We Kairos volunteers at the Louisiana state prisons help in bringing the love of Christ to those dark places. But it is the inmates themselves, once they experience the Kairos gift of affirming them as fellow human beings, it is they who spread the love of Christ, helping other inmates know that they, like Paul, are forgiven for whatever hurt they have caused others and are now charged to carry out the Kairos slogan: “listen, listen, love, love.” That is their special mission.
In our Baptismal Covenant, we promise “to seek and serve Christ in all persons—not just people like us, not just so-called “good” people—but all people, even those who may have done terrible things. I have seen up-close at Angola and now at Dixon that when those who have done the worse, like St. Paul, know of our Savior’s love, they not only change but begin to spread that love throughout the prison and to back-home family members just as far as they can. I used to think what happened to Paul on the road to Damascus was a stand-alone surprising and dramatic conversion, but that was before I took part in Kairos.
Musical Offering Amazing Grace - Andrea Boccelli
Help us to know, Lord God, that whoever we are, whatever we may have done, God will forgive, strengthen, and make us love apostles if we will open ourselves to his love. Amen.