15th May. Tuesday of the 6th Week of Easter
Acts 16:22ff. By their courage, Paul and Barnabas win new converts, in the gaol at Philippi.
John 16:5ff. His disciples must not be sad to hear that Jesus is going back to the Father.
By definition, crises take us by surprise. We can’t really plan for them, particularly those we have never before experienced. Paul’s peaceful life at Philippi was suddenly shattered. Earlier he had been annoyed with the girl who was shouting aloud, “These men are servants of the Most High God; they will make known to you a way of salvation!” To calm her he turned and said to the disturbing spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you, come out of her.” But when her masters saw that their source of profit was gone, which this girl had brought to them by her fortune-telling, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them … before the authorities and stirred up a mob who joined in the attack.
We can sympathize with Paul’s annoyance, while wondering if a bit more tolerance would not have saved him a lot of trouble! Or perhaps Paul was stirred with pity for the unfortunate girl who was being exploited for profit. In any case, the whole situation changed dramatically for Paul and Silas. In times of crises we discover hidden resources of strength and wisdom through our faith. That Jesus made this difference is evident from Acts. Paul had to endure a public scourging, a punishment that should not be inflicted upon a Roman citizen. In this case, Paul was later able to demand a public apology from the magistrates, yet for the moment, he and Silas stayed calm. “About midnight … they were praying and singing hymns to God.” Then another quick change happened, when an earthquake broke down the prison gates. Paul and Silas could have fled away, yet they remained within the prison.
This calm strength was not shared by the jailer, who woke up, saw the prison gates wide open and drew his sword to kill himself. He could not endure the disgrace of losing his prisoners. But Paul shouted: Do not harm yourself! and after a quick instruction about Jesus, he baptized the jailer and his entire household. It was not just the decision of the prisoners not to run away that transformed a person in panic into a strong, steady man. The text says that faith made the difference.
We too possess hidden resources of strength, if our faith is strong and if we truly believe in Jesus’ love and power to save us. Then, like Paul, when a crisis hits unexpectedly, for instance a death in the family or community, our faith at once places us into the wide world of the deceased in Purgatory or in Heaven. We do not flee from the reality of our situation (we remain like Paul in prison), yet we can conquer death. In the Eucharist we recline with the saints and our fellow believers, just as the jailer prepared a magnificent banquet for the apostles and his entire household.
Crises are not just a test of our personal courage but the occasion to realize the loyalty and love of the Holy Spirit. Because such consolation reaches beyond our understanding, we can never declare ahead of time how much we can endure for the faith out of love for Jesus. The love of Jesus surpasses our ways of measurement. Only by surrendering in faith will God be able to prove “the sober truth” of his infinite care for us.
First Reading: Acts 16:22-34
The crowd joined in attacking Paul and Silas, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, for he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved you and your household.” They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.
Gospel: John 16:5-11
But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.