Maggie Niles,
Grace Church, Honesdale

I was on the road and nearing Damascus, when suddenly about midday a great light
flashed from the sky all around me, and I fell to the ground. Then I heard a voice saying
to me, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” I answered, “Tell me, Lord, who you are.”
“I am Jesus of Nazareth,” he said, “whom you are persecuting,” My companions saw
the light, but did not hear the voice that spoke to me. “What shall I do, Lord?” I said,
and the Lord replied, “Get up and continue your journey to Damascus; there you will
be told of all the tasks that are laid upon you.” As I had been blinded by the brilliance
of that light, my companions led me by the hand, and so I came to Damascus.

Acts 22:6-21

Here again we have a monumental pilgrimage story. First, of course, is the fact it didn’t start out as a pilgrimage at all. It looks to me as if it started out as a business trip by a valued and top notch employee of the most important group of the most important institution, etc. Saul would have set off with a plan and a goal and a time limit, just like any good business trip boasts. He was a star at rousting out members of the new sect which followed The Way of Jesus.

Apparently he consigned person after person to death without a qualm. He did, however, attend one death which might have influenced him. He was present at Stephen’s death, by tradition the first Christian martyr. As Stephen died he honored Jesus by praying for his enemies, just as Jesus did. How astonishing that must have been to the people watching. Especially to those throwing the deadly stones. Perhaps this experience slipped into Saul’s sub-consciousness, way below his ego, and prepared him to hear what God said on that road to Damascus. Suddenly the VIP guy on his way to earn his salary becomes the blind, temporarily confused and needy man. The wholly competent and independent man is wholly dependent on other people.

The reading continues once they get to Damascus:
There, a man called Ananias, a devout observer of the Law and well spoken of by all
the Jews of that place, came and stood beside me and said, “Saul, my brother, recover
your sight.” Instantly I recovered my sight and saw him. He went on: “The God of
our fathers appointed you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to
hear his very voice, because you are to be his witness before the work, and testify
to what you have seen and heard. And now why delay? Be baptized at once,
with the invocation of his name, and wash away your sins.”

I am now wondering if this dependence on God instead of yourself could be one of the signs of a real pilgrimage?



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