11 For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; 12 for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
13 You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it. 14 I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors. 15 But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son to me,so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with any human being, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus.
18 Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days; 19 but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord’s brother. 20 In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie! 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia, 22 and I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea that are in Christ; 23 they only heard it said, “The one who formerly was persecuting us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me.
There are some who believe that people cannot change; that people are who they are, and that’s that. Therefore, if a person is good, then they will always be good, but if a person is bad then they are hopeless, as they will never be able to overcome their faults or defects of character. As a person of faith, it is hard for me to imagine that anyone could be truly ‘hope-less’: beyond hope and beyond God’s help, even if they do not appear to want that help, or have any faith themselves.
Today’s reading reminds us that people can and do change, and that no one is beyond the reach of God’s love and forgiveness, and that even someone who appears without hope is never truly lost as we are all children of a loving God.
As single parents we know first-hand that people can change. Perhaps we have seen negative changes in our former partners, changes which led to the end of our relationship; or maybe it was a more positive change: one that took place in our own lives, as we decided to move on from a bad relationship filled with dishonesty and pain, and start our lives over, to move in a new direction. We have also seen how our children have changed over the years: growing from infants, to rambunctious toddlers, to school-aged children, and then into teens (and all their drama) and finally taking their first steps into adulthood.
Even a positive change, like the one experienced by Paul, can be difficult to handle, as this kind of complete change of direction can have a powerful effect on our lives, and the lives of those around us. Many of us have experienced this kind of dramatic change when we became single parents, and seen the impact this has had on our own families.
For me, the decision to start my life over and to become a single father was a difficult one to make, although it was absolutely necessary. The experience reminded me that even a change made for the best reasons is not done without struggle, soul-searching and some pain. Although it was the right choice, ending my marriage was hard to do, not only because I took my commitment seriously, but also because it meant moving into new territory: the life of a single father, responsible for raising my bright and active daughter.
Life as a single parent can be more than a little scary and overwhelming at times, and in response we have had to learn new ways to live and to react to the events in our lives and the lives of our children. Being a single parent can also feel lonely at times, especially when it seems as if the emphasis is put more on the word ‘single’ than on ‘parent’. The good news as do not journey into this new land of being a single parent on our own…as God walks with us always, surrounding us with grace and love both directly, through the power of the Holy Spirit as proclaimed through the scriptures, and through other people.
When we reach out to our friends and family for help or advise, or when they reach out to us with support and love; when we allow others to help us through the rough patches, and turn our troubles over to a power greater than ourselves (such as someone who has already been through the wringer of change and come out the other side), in all these things…God is there with us, loving us and guiding us as we move forward on our journey as single parents.
Those who say that people cannot change are wrong, and we are all living proof of this, as life is all about change and (hopefully) growth. As single parents we know that neither things, nor people stay the same for long, and that most change is good…even if it is not always easy. As people of faith, we know that even in the midst of our changing world, God never changes, but remains a steadfast and loving parent to us all giving us the hope and strength we need to continue to move forward, one day at a time.
Let us Pray
God, thank you that people can and do change, and out-grow old ways of thinking and acting. Please let us remember that our children will also continue to mature and change, and that when these changes are done in the midst of your love that they will be positive changes. Help us to handle the changes we face in our lives, and in the lives of our children, and to learn new ways to react situations, to make the most of our relationships, and to live our lives. Let us also never be afraid to ask for your help, or the help of a loved one; and help us never to give up and opportunity to help someone else through times of change in their life.
Thank you for always being with us, and surrounding us with your unchanging love in the midst of our changing lives…