Season of Joy
Today's Season of Joy reflection on Acts 9:1-20 is by Terry O'Connell.
Terry has been happily married to his wife Cindy for 44 years. They have 3 children and 3 grand children. He’s a retired senior executive who worked for Time Warner Cable for 30 years. His hobbies include golf (which he enjoys most often), fishing (which he seldom does) and reading. He and his wife are blessed with not only a great marriage and family, but also many close friends, all of whom enrich their lives.
How Is Jesus Talking To You?
from Acts 9:1-20
He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him,
“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
He said, “Who are you, sir?”
The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.
Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”
To read the full scripture passage, please visit: https://bible.usccb.org/bible/
As we just heard in the reading from The Acts of the Apostles, it's about a man named Saul whose job it was to locate the followers of Jesus, place them in chains, and imprison them.
Clearly Saul was a very bad man.
One day Jesus came to Saul instructing him to go to Damascus and await instructions. He did as he was told. Jesus told one of his disciples in Damascus, "Do as I ask." saying, "This man Saul is a chosen instrument of mine."
Those are the words that really hit home with me. If God could choose a sinner like Saul, he truly is all about forgiveness and giving second chances.
Here is my story.
Ten years ago my family and I found a small, relatively new, nonprofit charity in Columbus, Ohio, called Star House. Their mission was to care for homeless youth ages 14 to 24. I had no idea our city—or any city—had a homeless youth problem, much less with people that young.
I knew right away Star House needed help, and I had the time since I had recently retired from my job. Jesus was already talking to me, but I didn't realize yet what was taking place in my life. Nevertheless, his message was clear. This was to become my new calling in retirement.
These young homeless people were the forgotten ones on our streets. These kids were alone and completely without love of any kind in their lives.
Star house needed a larger building which would allow the needed growth to expand its mission and reach many more of these at-risk young people. This is a story of how my eyes were opened, and when I heard God talking to me, guiding me every step of the way, even though I could not see him nor could I hear his spoken words.
I found a larger building which needed a complete renovation. The building was valued at $600,000 with the renovation costing another $1.4 million dollars. I had no money for this project, not one cent; nor did I have any experience raising money for charities.
By the time I signed the purchase agreement, I had $10,000 in the bank from a friend. I needed to find another $590,000 by the closing, in just three short months. I began praying, hard.
At the closing, in 90 days I had raised the money, and was able to write a check for the full amount. I was overcome with emotion. I began to realize there was a higher power at work in this project. This wasn't my project but God's.
Like Saul, God had chosen me—of all people—to be his instrument. I now had to raise another $1.4 million for the renovation of the building. It was a daunting task.
How would I ever find that much money?
Asking for money is not easy. Slowly, but surely though, people, companies, and foundations began to donate money. One day I was at morning Mass, again praying very hard, asking God for help.
I had not had a donation in over a month. I was deeply discouraged. I remember walking out of church with a friend complaining about my predicament.
She said to me, "Terry, don't worry, God will provide for you."
When I reached my car—only moments after she said those words—I noticed I had several messages on my phone. Each call was from people wanting to donate. One gave $50,000 and the other $75,000 dollars.
I had long since realized that God was at work in my life, but this experience that day was overwhelming. I knew all of my work and success thus far was really God's work and God's success.
This I told to everyone I knew. I had never felt as close to our father as I did that day and every day that followed. Thirteen months later, we moved into the $2 million dollar new building, debt-free.
God introduced me to Star House. It was he that provided the opportunity for me to strengthen my relationship with him, and in so doing help those far less fortunate than I. Indeed to help those young, hopeless souls, he holds closest to his heart.
We all need to open ourselves up in a way that allows Jesus to come into our hearts; to hear him, even though we cannot see him; to accept that he has chosen us to be his instrument and do his work here on Earth, no matter how large or small the task may be.
Each of us can be a modern-day Saul, if only we allow God to come into our lives.
And I am blessed to tell you this happened to me.
God bless you all.
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