Jesus said to his disciples: “…If I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes he will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation: sin because they do not believe in me; righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me; condemnation, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.”
This morning I celebrated Mass at a Carmelite Monastery. Fourteen nuns live and pray behind thick walls and bars. And though they are cloistered, the Holy Spirit still radiates beyond those walls.
Today’s first reading is providential.
Paul and Silas were praying behind the walls of a prison in Philippi. After having been beaten by the crowd and the magistrates and stripped of their clothing, they were thrown in prison to rot there. Suddenly, an earthquake struck and shook the very foundations of the jail. All the doors flew open, and the chains of all were pulled loose. When the jailor woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself (cf. Acts 16:22-34).
They were thrown in prison. Is my faith held prisoner by others? It could very well be. Once upon a time, a man’s faith could land him in prison. Today, a man’s Christian faith can land him in big trouble. He could end up with a failing grade, or disqualified from a competition, or kicked out of a job or even expelled from a school. Just a few weeks ago I read in the news how one college student refused his teacher’s order to step on a piece of paper that had the name “Jesus” written on it. The order, of course, was disguised as an assignment, and the professor’s anti-Christian sentiment was disguised as a lesson in tolerance. The student received an F for the assignment and was placed on some sort of probation. Finally, he was told by school administrators to keep his mouth shut. Well, the brave student fought back and received an apology from the school. In another incident, a teacher told students to write an essay titled, "I believe." But then the teacher told them they could not mention God. So, let me get this straight. The teacher wanted the students to express their beliefs, but they couldn't express their greatest belief. No wonder why elitist social workers keep telling us that teens do not believe in God anymore! Well, teens are fighting back, against theophobic schools and against theophobic teachers.
To be honest, I am so glad. I am thrilled that this is happening in our beloved nation that prides itself as the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” These incidences should be a good wakeup call for the thousands of Christians that are in a deep slumber. Wake up America!
The prison walls fell apart and the prisoners’ chains were loosened. Righteousness is an earthquake. The meek and humble of heart are earthquakes. Faith heals. Sin twists and distorts. It leads to the suicide of thought, of life. The guard, who held the Apostles captive, became terrified at the thought that their God was stronger than his chains and his Caesar. The weight of the chains he had placed on others, were now quickly wrapping around him and condemning him. And yet, as he prepared to take his life, his prisoners, the Apostles, gave him back his life.
Sins are like chains. Righteousness, like an earthquake. And whereas condemnation leads to despair, faith brings life back to hope.
The enemies of our faith can do all they want (and we should expect them to do just that). They can throw us in prison, chain us, and even threaten us with expulsion or death. But they are powerless against the Holy Spirit. While God’s men remained chained, the Holy Spirit remained unchained…and all hell (prison) broke loose.
We, Christians, have nothing to fear. Even from prison, we can make a difference.