Friday, May 9, 2014

St. Ananias

In my parish at least, with a large number of baptism, we have seen a return to the more traditional names for children, including some that would be associated with the WWII generation. This of course means a return to names that are names of saints. The four evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) never go out of style. Paul and Timothy remain popular. In Spanish the more obscure saints like Joaquin and Ana, the parents of Mary remain popular; however,I am not expecting to ever see an Ananias.

You may even be thinking, who? And yet there is not a one of us who do not know his story. Remember the conversion of Saul/Paul on the road to Damacus. While we like to focus on him, he is not the prime agent in the story. He is struck blind and thrown into a helpless and dependent state, as has to happen to many of us before we really change. He has to be helped to find is way into town.

The minister of God's healing grace in this story, the primary actor is Ananias. He is the one who Jesus sends to go and lay hands on him that he might regain his sight. He is the one who, despite all he has heard about Saul, overcomes his fears and his prejudices. He walks into the house and, having never met the man, calls him brother, adelphos. He shows him philadelphia. long before the word referred to a city, it was a virtue. The word philadelphia, fraternal love, the virtue, is spoken of in Romans, 1 Thessolonians, Hebrews, and First and Second Peter.

No I'm not expecting any parent to name their baby after this saint. But perhaps today all do us can turn to St. Ananias and pray for an outpouring of philadelphia into each of our hearts, especially toward those who would do us harm. Philadelphia leads to healing and to conversion. It changed Saul into Paul. And 2000 years later it still works. It can still change even the hardest of hearts.