Written by Sr. Rosemary Finnegan, O.P.
Readings from: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/051920.cfm
Our readings since Easter have been filled with great stories of the apostles growing in confidence about their mission to preach and people who have had powerful conversion experiences. Oddly, too, we’ve also heard stories that involve closed doors which Jesus walked through, and prisons where the apostles often landed. It’s one of those stories we heard today.
Think about that jailer. Little did he know when he went to work that morning to guard some prisoners named Paul and Silas that his life would be turned upside down by the end of the day. As the story goes, an earthquake shook the jail and loosened the chains of all the prisoners. The jailer, knowing he would be blamed if the prisoners escaped, almost killed himself in distress. Paul and Silas, however, told him not to harm himself, that they were still there, and in that surprising encounter, the jailer was overwhelmingly moved to conversion. Then, at great risk to himself, he took the apostles home to his family, bathed their wounds, and fed them. That night, that jailer and his whole household were baptized. Not only were Paul and Silas freed from prison, but in a real spiritual sense, the jailer was freed by baptism to a new life in Christ.
Since this virus has visited us, I’ve heard so many people say that these ‘social isolation’ recommendations, other preventative restrictions, have made them feel like they’re in prison themselves. On the other hand, I’ve also heard people say that this forced confinement has taught them many revealing lessons about who they are, what really matters in life, and who God is to them.
Interestingly enough, when St. John of the Cross was imprisoned by his own religious order because they didn’t like all the community reforms he was making, St. John discovered great freedom in his own cell. Actually, it is where he wrote his classic “The Dark Night of the Soul”, which tells of not only his own spiritual struggles, but also the freedom he found as his soul became more open to God’s graces. Within his imprisonment, he found true freedom.
What can we learn from our own confinement at this time? We are surely in situations where we would prefer not to be. Within our own cells, we pray to be free from these troubles, from grief, from sadness, and whatever else imprisons our hearts.
We can also use this time to experience our faith in new ways and discover again the scriptures, prayer, articles or videos about our faith. If we choose, it could be a time of deepening our love, hope, and compassion. When we are finally released from our cells, these are the qualities our world will need to make our common home more loving, respectful and more beautiful than ever.
So, like that jailer, we, too, are going from crisis, to challenge, to change. May we be more enriched by our faith and trust in God’s mysterious ways during this time of confinement, and may we experience the freedom of a renewed life in Christ.