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.
Psalm 138: 1-3, 7-8
I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing your praise;
I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness;
for you have exalted your name and your word
On the day I called, you answered me,
you increased my strength of soul.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies;
you stretch out your hand,
and your right hand delivers me.
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.
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.
The readings this past week have been telling the story of the early Church in reverse chronological order. In the Acts of the Apostles, we follow the adventures of the disciples as they spread the Gospel. We see the incredible growth of the Church amid miracles and conversions, but we also see the suffering they endured along the way. Often those miracles went hand-in-hand with the sufferings, as we see in the first reading today. And then the Gospel brings us to Jesus’ discourse at the Last Supper, before He faced the Cross. He knew that the apostles did not understand what was about to happen, and they were feeling sorrow and apprehension that He was going away. He tried to reassure them that what was to happen was a necessary part of God’s plan and would only bring good for the world. He likely knew at the same time that the disciples would need to see it for themselves, and would not be able to grasp the Lord’s work fully until they had also witnessed the Paschal Mystery and outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Imagine if Paul and Silas had responded to their imprisonment with fear or grief, or if they had questioned why God was allowing it. Such a reaction would have been understandable, and perhaps those feelings arose at first. Yet they chose to continue trusting in God, praising Him and showing publicly that they knew He was with them. It’s almost as if they knew there was about to be a miracle. Their attitude not only showed an example to their fellow prisoners, but their faith opened the door for the Lord to not only deliver them, but to bring salvation to the jailer and his entire household.
By opening Heaven for us and sending us the Holy Spirit, the Lord has left us an incredible gift. We can walk through challenges and suffering knowing that He is still with us and can even use that suffering for a purpose that we could not have even imagined. Think about something you are suffering right now. Whether you are facing a crisis or have been carrying the same cross over a period of time, ask yourself how your response to it would change if you could see the Lord walking with you or knew in advance what good He desired to bring out of it. Ask the Lord for the grace to see your life and your crosses with eyes of faith, to choose trust in Him over fear, and to open yourself to the ways that He desires to work in your life, both to bring you to a deeper level of holiness and to allow you to bring Him to others.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for always hearing and answering when I call to you. Thank you for being with me and for promising to complete what you have begun in me. May I grow in my trust of you today and learn to lean on the Holy Spirit, the gift you sent when you returned to the Father. May my entire life be a witness to your loving plan of salvation and help others to find their joy in you. Amen.