Dateline: Monday, January 25, 2016 — the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle.
While reading the daily Mass readings on the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, I was struck not so much by Saul’s dramatic conversion rather by Ananias’ faithfulness and obedience. St. Ananias reached out to me so forcefully that I declared him my February Saint of the Month right then. (Quick back-story here, I’m choosing a saint for each month of 2016 with whom I can walk more intimately and intentionally. More about that here.) Some Catholic sources state St. Ananias’ feast day is the same as the Conversion of St. Paul on January 25; others list it on February 25. As I’ve journeyed with Ananias beginning on January 25 and now throughout February, both dates work for me!
If you’re not familiar with Ananias, and truthfully I didn’t know him all that well until about a month ago, we learn about him from Acts 9:1-22. Ananias was a Christian in Damascus, Syria, who received a vision of Jesus. In that vision, he was ordered to find Saul (aka Paul the Apostle). Ananias journeyed to find Saul, and when he found him, Saul was blind and staggering into the city after his encounter with Christ on the road. Ananias cured Saul of the blindness, baptized him into the faith, supported him while he prepared, and helped him begin his missionary work.
What a terrifying struggle it must have been for Ananias to comply with what the Lord asked him to do. What?! You want me to go find this man called Saul who is hunting down and killing Christians like me? Yet Ananias obeyed the Lord. If it weren’t for Ananias, would we even have a St. Paul? I really began pondering that question on the morning of January 25 — what is the unique call God has given me?
During my recent monthly spiritual direction meeting, I mentioned how I felt Ananias was reaching out to me. My spiritual director, a priest, pulled out his Bible and asked me to use the prayer form of lectio divina with Acts 9:1-22. We specifically spent a good deal of time pondering Acts 9:10.
There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias, and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.”
Father asked me, “What kind of relationship did Ananias have with the Lord?” His question threw me off guard. I stuttered in response, hem hawing around trying to articulate a decent answer. I began to rattle off all the actions Ananias was doing in the name of the Lord — he listened, he obeyed, he went, he converted. Then Father saved me from totally bombing and said, “Ananias was in a close relationship with the Lord. A close relationship.” He then quickly wrote down three words on a piece of paper, handed me the note, and the words on that note have, well, irritated yet positively challenged me in recent weeks.
He then said something like, “You spend a lot of time focusing on your mission, Lisa. Let’s invert these and work on the relationship part. You can’t know your identity in the Trinity until you have first established the close relationship. Then your mission, the unique call you have been given, naturally flows from the first two.” Ananias’ close relationship with the Lord first allowed him to identify as a staunch and committed Christian, which then lead him to fulfill that unique mission we read about in Acts 9.
As I’ve journeyed with Ananias this past month, I’m learning to reach out to him and ask for his intercession to help me enter into a deeper relationship with the Trinity. I’m involved in a pretty big project … a fun one, but one that is a bit overwhelming at times. Admittedly, I’ve felt quite anxious over so many tasks that must be completed to keep the project moving along. When the to-dos are buzzing around and I’m busily swatting them away, I can now seek Ananias’ intercession to help me pull a full stop, turn to the Lord and say, “Here I am” and simply sit with Jesus in order to grow in relationship with him.