What Do You Mean, We? A Quiz and Two Lessons in Honor of St. Paul’s Conversion

Who wrote the Acts of the Apostles? St. Luke.

What is the book about? The beginnings of the Church. The beginnings of the mission entrusted by Christ to us human beings who humbly put our faith in Him.

For whom did St. Luke originally write the book? For Christians who spoke Greek, which means both Gentile and Jewish converts. At that time, Greek was the language that the world had most in common.

Saint Luke
St Luke

Who are the two most significant heroes of the Acts of the Apostles—other than the Holy Spirit, of course? Saints Peter and Paul.

How many times do we read about St. Paul’s conversion to Christ in the Acts of the Apostles? Three times. St. Luke narrates the event once, in chapter 9. Then St. Luke recounts St. Paul telling the story of his conversion twice. Once before to the Jews in Jerusalem, and once before the Roman procurator, on the Mediterranean coast.

The details remain the same in all three accounts. Lord Jesus spoke from heaven to the zealous Pharisee, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”

But when St. Paul told the story to his final audience, which included non-Jews, he added something. When the Lord spoke from heaven, He asked Saul about persecuting Him, and He also employed a common Greek expression to try to help St. Paul come to his senses: Saul, why do you kick against the pricks?

A yoked ox must learn to submit to the farmer. A prick, or goad, will stir an idle ox to action. But at first the ox doesn’t understand that the goad means, “Move!” So the ox kicks when pricked, instead of stepping forward. The kick just makes matters worse and exacerbates the pain. The ox has to learn that the prick means, “Step forward, dummy!”

Let’s take a lesson from Lord Jesus saying this to the young Paul. A farmer driving an ox knows more about what’s good for the ox than the ox does. Likewise, God knows more about what’s good for us than we do, left to our own devices. We prosper when we submit to God and obey Him.

Second, let’s take a lesson from St. Luke writing the Acts of the Apostles the way he did. Submission to God involves participating in the living, breathing institution that Jesus founded when He was on earth.

One thing St. Paul never thought was, “My relationship with God is my own independent, personal business.” He knew that he needed to belong to the People of God. The question was, “Who is the we? Who are we, the People of God?”

The answer he got: the one, visible Church founded by Jesus, presided over by St. Peter and his successors in office. An institution full of foibles, to be sure. But united nonetheless by the divine Gift, the Holy Spirit of Christ.

conversiononwaytodamascuscaravaggio

 

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2 thoughts on “What Do You Mean, We? A Quiz and Two Lessons in Honor of St. Paul’s Conversion

  1. Very helpful homily. “…kick against the pricks” was new to me, had not heard that before.
    Judy R.

  2. When you teach from Scripture, I learn, my wounds are salved, hope grows. Thanks so much for the explanatory of ‘pricks’, which helps this ox to better understand the Great ox caller.

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