A young church worker came home to an unexpected and shocking sight – his father in the kitchen cooking the evening meal. This father has abandoned his family some years ago to pursue another woman, plunging the family into despair and destitution. The young man sought out his mother to explain why she received his father back. The mother calmly reminded the young man that his father was broke and repentant and though she herself was never active in church, she could not help but welcome her husband with a forgiving and compassionate heart. The young man turned away in shame, tears trickling down his cheeks.

The Resurrection of Jesus had a powerful impact on many people, but not all of them his disciples or believers. The shadow of this great event touched even the hardest of hearts, Saul among them, who was once the most feared persecutor of the Jerusalem Christians. It must have been difficult for the Christians at first. The first reading (Acts 9) says that the Christians were still afraid of him, unsure of his alleged conversion to the faith.

Barnabas took charge of Saul and brought him to the apostles guaranteeing his genuine change of heart, his dramatic metanoia. The apostles received Saul, extending to him hands of forgiveness, reconciliation and brotherhood. The other believers slowly accepted Saul, and in fact, delivered him from death by securing his escape from those who plotted his death.

At his Death and Resurrection, Jesus not only forgave his enemies and gave them the chance of a new life. He also modelled for his disciples how to deal with enemies, haters, bashers, and unpleasant people. No fierce retaliation, no harsh condemnation, no rude rejection. Jesus’ only response was forgiveness, mercy, and joyful hope for the return of the prodigal. True enough, the Risen Christ became a magnet for sinners to come home to the Father’s embrace, and for skeptics and doubters to believe in the power of love and service. Feeling this attraction, Saul the enemy of Christians became Paul the greatest apostle to the nations.

Maybe, just maybe, this season of Easter calls us to receive back people who have once deserted us, to forgive those who hurt us most, to forget the offenses done to us, and to move on from the pain towards healing. This week, let us remember the people who became our enemies and pray that the Lord in his power grant us reconciliation, peace and friendship in Christ. Let us also remember how we have become estranged from others through our own fault and sincerely repent of our actions so that we can emerge as people with a new heart.