An odd thing about Paul’s story of his conversion on the road to Damascus is that he told it three different times in the Acts of the Apostles. It is in Chapters Nine, in Twenty-two, and in Twenty-Seven. Although he tells the story in almost the same words each time; the last time, in Chapter Twenty-Seven he recalled one detail he left out the other two times. The detail he finally remembered is that the voice from heaven told him, “It is hard for you to kick against the goad.”
A goad is a pointed stick a farmer uses to prod his beast to go the right way. In saying it was hard for Saul to kick against the goad, Jesus was saying that all along while Saul was persecuting the Christians, his conscience was telling him he was hurting good people. I say. “his conscience was telling him;” but in bringing the matter up, Jesus was saying that he himself was behind those promptings of Saul’s conscience. When we say, “let your conscience be your guide” we are often really saying, “Let the Lord, speaking through your conscience be your guide.”
Even though Saul had some misgivings about imprisoning seemingly good people who differed with his strict observance of Jewish laws, he went on imprisoning them. It took a bolt of lightening and a voice from heaven to get him to change his attitude.
This should be a warning to us against being too fixed in our ways. Our country is divided between Republicans and Democrats, and our Catholics are divided between those who still go only by the Council of Trent, and liberals who love Vatican II. Whichever side we are on, instead of waiting for our personal bolts of lightening, we should admit to the possibility that we are not completely right, and the possibility that the other side is not completely wrong. That should lead us to give up all animosity towards that other side.