During the homily at the morning Mass celebrated at St. Martha’s House, Pope Francis has commented the biblical passage of Saint Paul’s conversion: a man with a burning fidelity to the principles of his faith, but with a “closed heart”, totally deaf to Christ, even “ready” to exterminate His followers to the point of authorizing to put in chains those who lived in Damascus.
Everything changes along the way and Paul’s story, the Pope says, becomes that “of a man who allows God to change his heart”: “Saul the strong, the confident, was now on his knees,” Francis said. In that condition, he points out, he “understands the truth”, that is, the fact that he is not “the kind of man God wants because God created all of us to stand and hold our heads high.” The voice from heaven does not only say “Why do you persecute me?”, but invites Paul to stand up: “‘Stand up and I will tell you’. There are still you have to learn. And when he tried to stand up, he could not because he realized he was blind: he lost his sight that very moment. ‘And allowed himself be guided’: his heart began to open. Thus, leading him by the hand, the men who were with him led him to Damascus. His blindness lasted three days, he did not eat nor drink. This man was on his knees, but he instantly realized he had to accept this humiliation. Humiliation is the way to open one’s heart. When the Lord sends humiliation or allows humiliation to come, that is the reason why: to make our heart open and be docile, and to convert our heart to the Lord Jesus.”
After three days of darkness, God sends him Ananias who lays his hands on him and his eyes become able to see again. But there is one detail, the Pope says, we should bear in mind: “Let us remember that the protagonist of these stories are not the scribes, nor Stephen, nor Philip, nor the eunuch, nor Saul… It is the Holy Spirit. Protagonist of the Church is the Holy Spirit who leads the people of God. And suddenly he regained sight, as if two scales fell from his eyes. He stood up and was baptized. The hardness of Paul’s – Saul’s, Paul’s – heart became docility to the Holy Spirit”.
“It is nice – Francis said – to see how the Lord is able to change hearts” and make “a tough, stubborn heart become a heart that is docile to the Spirit.” “We all have harshness in our heart: all of us. If any of you does not, raise your hand, please. All of us. Let us ask the Lord to make us see that this harshness brings us to our knees. May He send us His grace and – if necessary – also humiliation, so as not to leave us on our knees, but make us stand up with the dignity God created us with, that is, with the grace of an open heart, a heart docile to the Holy Spirit”.