In the first reading from the book of Acts today, Paul and Silas were very severely beaten, thrown into the innermost cell in prison, and their feet were staked to the ground. Can you imagine being severely beaten and put in chains? Paul and Silas must have been miserable and in pain, and yet they were not discouraged. It is understandable that they prayed to God, but what is so amazing is that they also sang hymns! Who would actually feel like singing after such a terrible ordeal? And yet, their spirits were still up enough to sing praises to God. They didn’t blame God for their miserable circumstances, but praised him instead.
If they were singing even in these circumstances, then we should also keep our hope up and faith in God, when we find ourselves in negative circumstances too. There are many times that people blame God for the unfortunate circumstances in their lives and they become bitter and depressed about it. But, Paul and Silas clearly recognized that the reason they found themselves in such miserable circumstances was because of men, not because of God.
The hymns that Paul and Silas sang must have been beautiful and soothing, because the scriptures say that the other prisoners were listening to the disciples sing late that night. The Holy Spirit must have touched their hearts when they heard the Apostle’s songs of praise, because they did not run away when the earthquake happened and opened the doors to their cells. It probably wasn’t because of the beautiful prayers and hymns that Paul and Silas sang, that caused God to take pity on them and send an earthquake to set them free. But, you can’t help but wonder if their beautiful songs, and heartfelt prayers softened God’s heart a little. Of course Jesus wanted Paul and Silas to be set free too though, so they could continue their mission to spread the Good News about him.
The beautiful thing about this reading is how Paul and Silas and the other prisoners didn’t immediately get up and run away the moment they were set free. It makes you wonder why they didn’t run away? Is it because they did not want the guard to be put to death if they escaped? They showed compassion to the very man who kept them captive. Can you imagine the jailer’s reaction when he realized that he didn’t have to kill himself, because of their compassion for his predicament? The prisoners’ kindness, care and concern for their guard, caused his conversion of heart.
The thing that is so beautiful about this story, is the jailer’s instant conversion. He even took the Apostles to his own home and fed them and bathed their wounds. With what tenderness he cared for them! What joy came to his entire household, after his conversion. Eternal salvation was unexpectedly brought to his entire household. Isn’t it awesome how the Holy Spirit works? He really does guide our church, and guide our personal lives too.
The first reading told the story of how Paul and Silas was convicted and put in prison by people who did not believe in Jesus Christ. However, Jesus tells us in today’s gospel that when the Holy Spirit comes he will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness. Sin, because of those who do not believe in him and righteousness because Jesus went to his Father and we no longer see him. It is righteous to have faith in Jesus even though he is not still with us. Then Jesus said the ruler of this world has been condemned and this is because of all those who do not believe that he is the son of the living God.
God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit act as one being and they are both merciful and just. God’s mercy is easy for us to picture, but His justice is more difficult for us to imagine. In a way, it is a poetic justice that in the end, people will get what they deserve. Things are not what they appear to be on the surface of things, by worldly standards. The jailer in the first reading for mass deserved to die by worldly standards, if his prisoners escaped, and yet, the prisoners had mercy on him though. Their hearts were good. Their hearts were like Christ’s own heart. In their hearts they converted evil into a greater good, just like Jesus did. May God enable us to do the same.
Daily Mass Readings:
Acts 16: 22-34 / Psalm 138: 1-3, 7c-8 / John 16: 5-11