Acts of the Apostles #9:
Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
What took place in the encounter of Pau with the Risen Christ?
Saul recognized Christ as Son of God because he had been had been zealous for the faith of Abraham. He lived outside himself, and because he was already outside himself, he re-cognized Jesus Who is outside Himself as Son of the Father. Like is known by like. Saul was not lukewarm but fervent and passionate for the truth as he understood it at that moment. Christ appears to him and is immediately recognized. Saul goes through an instantaneous change from Saul, passionate enemy to “another Christ.”
Consider the remarks in Galations 2, 20: I live, no not I. Christ lives in me;
- And in Galations 3, 16: The promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. He does not say, “and to his offsprings,” as of many, but as of one, “And to thy offspring,” who is Christ;”
- And finally in Galatians 3, 28: For you are all the children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all you who have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman; there is neither male nor female. For you are all the Greek: Heis) in Christ Jesus. Ajd if you are Christ’s, then you are the offspring of Abraham, heirs according to promise.”
We are dealing here with what Baptism means. It is an ontological turnabout where the metaphysical identity of the baptized is killed nd destroyed and r e placed by the Self of Jesus Christ
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Man is not saved by ideas, but by conversion
The astounding reality of the feast is to realize that Saul’s persecution of the Christians of Damascus is the persecution of Christ Himself: “I am Jesus, and you are persecuting me”? (Acts 9, 1-22). Christ identifies Himself personally with His Church. God has become man so that man could become God (Irenaeus). And further: the personal encounter with the Lord produces a conversion in Saul that goes to the ontological depths of the personality.
Hear Ratzinger: “St. Paul says, ‘I live, no longer I, but Christ lives within me.’ (Gal. 2, 20). This sentence comes at the end of that short spiritual autobiography which Paul works up right before his readers’ very eyes. He does this, not to gain glory for himself, but to clarify the message which has been entrusted to hi, and he does so by making reference to his own personal history as it had been lived with Christ and with the Church. This explanation of his life leads him, wo to dspeak, even further – from the outside to the inside. First he describes the external events of his vocation and his path through life; then in a single sentence, as clear as a lightning bolt, the inner event that took place during all of this, and is the ground of it all, is made clear. This inner event is at once the same time indicates what is the objective essence of Christianity for each one of us. It would be a weak oversimplification to put it this way: becoming and being a Christian depend on conversion. But that would be headed in the right direction. Yet conversion according to Paul is something much more radical than a mere revision of a few opinions or attitudes. It is a death event. In other words, it is the replacement of the subject – of the ‘I.’ The ‘I’ ceases to be independent and to be a subject existing in itself. It is torn from itself and inserted into a new subject. The ‘I’ does not perish, but must let itself diminish completely, in effect, in order to be received within a larger ‘I’ and, together with that larger ‘I,’ to be conceived anew. [Blogger: of course the new “I” is Christ as will be seen below]
“The basic notion that conversion is the abandonment of the old, isolated subjectivity of the ‘I,’ and the fining of oneself within a new and subjective unity in which the limitations of the former ‘I’ have been surpassed, makes it possible to come into contact with the basis of all truth. This fundamental thought is something we find again, but with new accents, in another passage from the Galatians. Paul pursues the topic and asks whether a person can develop by himself or whether he must let himself be given to himself by the operation of two conflicting imperatives, the law and the promise. Here, Paul vigorously asserts that the promise is made only to an individual. It applies not to a number of isolated individuals, but only to an individual. It applies not to a number of individuals, but only to the individual – ‘the seed of Abraham’ in the singular (Gal. 3, 16). The promise has been made to one person only, and outside this one person sits the confused world of self-realization in which people compete against one another and want to compete with God, but end up only by dabbling with their own hopes.”
[Blogger: note that the “one individual” is The Christ – the “One” – ἑ¡s – and that there is only Christ as Heir of the promise to Abraham, and we are all heir in that we become Christ Himself. Hence, all are called as images and baptized to be Ipse Christus]
“But how can the promise be a hope if it can apply only to one person? Paul’s answer is this: ‘You have been baptized in Christ and have clothed yourselves in Christ. There are not more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus. But if you belong to Christ, you are the seed of Abraham and heirs to the promise” (Gal 3, 28),