Today is the Feast of St Ananias, one of the Seventy Apostles, who we hear about in Act 9. God sent him to meet with St Paul, bless him, and remind him that God had a plan for His Church. St Ananias was hesitant at first, because he knew that St Paul (when he was known as Saul) was a killer of Christians. He had gained a reputation to be feared by anyone in the Church.
As you can read in the passage below, God sent him anyway and he went to meet with the man everyone feared. When the conversation was finished, Saul became Paul, and arguably the greatest missionary of Christian history. His writings have inspired billions of people to live for Christ. Imagine what would have happened if St Ananias refused to trust God, and we never had the benefit of St Paul?
In those days, there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am, Lord." And the Lord said to him, "Rise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for a man of Tarsus named Saul; for behold, he is praying, and he has seen a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight." But Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to thy saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call upon thy name." But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name." So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized, and took food and was strengthened. – Acts 9.10-19
Our common theme this week has been about repentance and forgiveness. We have been urged to be ready at any moment for judgment, and ultimately live our new life in Christ without returning to sin. In today’s reading from Acts, we have it all wrapped up in one. Ananias had to forgive Saul and immediately act according to God’s will. Saul had to repent, and not return to his old ways of killing Christians, choosing rather to live his new life as Paul. Because of all this we know them as SAINT Ananias and SAINT Paul. All this was possible because they trusted God.
It is too easy to look at others’ sins and think they are a lost cause. It is too easy, especially when we have been at the receiving end of their sin, to write them off as ‘no good’ for us or the Church. But that would not be in the best interest of the Church, nor our own salvation, nor their salvation for that matter. Saul was not a lost cause, and neither are the other members of our local Church.
Just because we know the sins of others, and I will remind you we never know the entire story, doesn’t mean we give up hope on their value to God and the for the Church. Can we really be sure that God has not spoken to them, and inspired them to a new outlook? One of the reasons St Paul was so successful was in fact because his reputation was so bad. If HE could change, ANYONE could change. If God could use HIM for the benefit of the Church, surely, He could use ANYONE for the glory of God’s Church.
As we begin this new month, I invite you to recommit to viewing others with the eyes of St Ananias. How are we to know that God has not called them to greatness? It is better to trust God than our own limited vantage point. St Ananias didn’t know the whole story, and neither do we, but greatness is in the future of many we may never have met yet. Allow for God’s Holy Spirit, and watch lives change. Allow for repentance and forgiveness and watch the world change. Trust God, and watch yourself change.