God called Ananias to go to the aid of Saul, the then-Jewish equivalent of the KGB, Stasi and secret police, searching out Christians to torture and execute them. I am with Ananias when he replied to God: “You want me to go where and help WHO – you must be dreaming “.
But God tells Ananias that Saul, soon to be Paul, will experience the same suffering he inflicted. Paul, a lifetime later, describes it: “(I have been) in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, and I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea, and in danger from false believers. I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked”
But, Paul says, his greatest suffering was his concern for the Churches. I often wonder, too, whether Paul, all his life, had terrible flashbacks – of the time he stood by and watched approvingly while Stephen was stoned. Did he have nightmares and wake up hearing the screams of the Christians he’d had tortured. How much regret filled his life, how many times he may have asked “if only I had heard..! If only I’d known…! If only I could do it all again…!”
Certainly not as dramatically, but perhaps many of us have had those experiences. So, what a joy Easter and Resurrection is. We are not just what we have done. We are not just what the past has done to us. I am more than the present forces on me. With God’s grace, with the new life of Jesus within us, what could be, can be, and who should be will be.
.. And most importantly, I don’t have to torture myself with regrets. ALLELUIA
Fr Tom McDonough CP is the current provincial superior of Holy Spirit province.