This blog follows the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church
Reading 1, Acts 16:22-34
22 The crowd joined in and showed its hostility to them, so the magistrates had them stripped and ordered them to be flogged. 23 They were given many lashes and then thrown into prison, and the gaoler was told to keep a close watch on them. 24 So, following such instructions, he threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. 25 In the middle of the night Paul and Silas were praying and singing God’s praises, while the other prisoners listened. 26 Suddenly there was an earthquake that shook the prison to its foundations. All the doors flew open and the chains fell from all the prisoners. 27 When the gaoler woke and saw the doors wide open he drew his sword and was about to commit suicide, presuming that the prisoners had escaped.
28 But Paul shouted at the top of his voice, ‘Do yourself no harm; we are all here.’ 29 He called for lights, then rushed in, threw himself trembling at the feet of Paul and Silas, 30 and escorted them out, saying, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’
31 They told him, ‘Become a believer in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, and your household too.’ 32 Then they preached the word of the Lord to him and to all his household. 33 Late as it was, he took them to wash their wounds, and was baptised then and there with all his household. 34 Afterwards he took them into his house and gave them a meal, and the whole household celebrated their conversion to belief in God.
Roman flogging was a serious and brutal punishment which removed skin and often muscle from the back and buttocks. Paul in his letters mentions frequent floggings, and no-one should underestimate the heroism involved in persisting in the face of such experiences.
The narrative of the earthquake that opened the jail is a popular legend of the sort that also is fund in the book of Revelation, where the suffering of believers is portrayed simultaneously as a cosmic victory. The story says that Paul and Silas’s praise of God from the midst of pain and captivity, is itself an earthquake which destroys the prison and sets the prisoners free. The faith of the apostles extends to concern for the enemy and overcomes his allegiance to Rome, giving him a new allegiance to God.
It is not necessary to believe every detail of the acts of the apostles to marvel at the legends they left behind, and to respond to their liberating message.
Gospel, John 16:5-11
5 but now I am going to the one who sent me. Not one of you asks, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Yet you are sad at heart because I have told you this. 7 Still, I am telling you the truth: it is for your own good that I am going, because unless I go, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will show the world how wrong it was, about sin, and about who was in the right, and about judgement: 9 about sin: in that they refuse to believe in me; 10 about who was in the right: in that I am going to the Father and you will see me no more; 11 about judgement: in that the prince of this world is already condemned.
What does it mean that a man can say of his own painful death, “I am going to the one who sent me” It indicates a profound trust that the acceptance of darkness is fully consonant with the fundamental direction of his life, and that this trust is not an acknowledgment of the power of death, but an affirmation of life.
This translation leaves the Greek word “paraclete” un-translated. It means “one called in to help”, usually an advocate. Jesus spoke of the spirit as “another advocate” meaning that his own ministry had been one of advocacy for human beings-his presence, his love, his healings, all made a case for humanity to enjoy abundant life. After his death, the Spirit would exercise this ministry.
In the light of Jesus resurrection, the advocate- spirit would show that Jesus had not been the sinner but the ones who killed him; that Jesus was the true son of the father, rather than those who claimed Israel was; and that his killers did not pass judgement on Jesus, rather his death passed judgment on them. The advocate-spirit does not accept the verdict the world passes on people.