7 May. Tuesday of the Sixth 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.
First Reading: Acts 16:22-34
The crowd joined in attacking them, 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, since 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.
A Happy Outcome
We can sympathize with Paul’s annoyance in today’s story, but we can’t help wondering if a bit more patience and tolerance would have saved him a lot of trouble! Perhaps Paul was stirred with pity for the unfortunate girl whom her masters were exploiting for their own profit. In any case, the whole situation changed dramatically and Paul and Silas were thrown into prison and flogged. This punishment could not normally be inflicted upon a Roman citizen, so Paul was later to demand and receive a public apology from the magistrates.
During the night as Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, an earthquake broke down the prison gates. While the missionaries could have escaped, they remained within the prison. The jailer woke up, saw the prison gates open and drew his sword to kill himself, afraid of the consequences. Paul calms him down and after a quick instruction about Jesus, baptizes the jailer and his entire household. Then there is a feast to celebrate his newly found faith.What a roller-coaster of experiences.
Like Paul and Barnabas, the modern Christian stands in need of the Advocate – the Holy Spirit promised us by Jesus. Crises like those faced by the apostles are not just a test of our personal character but the occasion to renew our trust in the love of the Holy Spirit. The love of Jesus surpasses our predictions and assessments. He is no less capable now than then of bringing all things to a happy outcome. Out of the vortex, good can emerge and, as Julian of Norwich serenely believed, “All manner of things will be well!”