Daily Reflection
May 23rd, 2006

Roc O'Connor

Theology Dept. and Campus Ministry
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Acts 16:22-34
Psalm 138:1-2ab, 2cde-3, 7c-8
John 16:5-11

We seem to hear a lot about closed doors, prisons, and the like during Eastertide. Jesus appears to the disciples (John 20) when the doors were locked. An angel freed Peter and the apostles from their prison cell (Acts 5). In the same way in today’s first reading, Paul and Silas are miraculously freed from their bonds (Acts 16). Being the Irish Existentialist that I am, I wonder about prisons.

A lot of contemporary preachers promise that God will free people from debt, sickness, addictions, and whatever else binds them. At the same time, most of us pray to be freed from troubles, hard times, anger, bad experiences, grief, and whatever else binds us. We pray on Sundays for peace (freedom from war and hatred), reconciliation (freedom from vengeance and resentments), and healing (freedom from the many diseases that afflict our world).

Whether it’s in my own life or in the lives of many around me, I don’t see a lot of freedom from the things that bind us. I’m not sure why.

I wonder if our prisons can teach us something about who we are and who God is.

When St. John of the Cross was imprisoned by his own religious order for being a pest and a reformer, he discovered great freedom within his cell. That’s where he wrote “The Dark Night of the Soul”, as I have been told. He found freedom within his imprisonment.

Here’s where I am going with this: it seems that we live in an age when the many and varied forms of imprisonment are being revealed to us. We get to see our intransigence, our ideological incompatibility with others, the bonds of war-making and vengeance. I don’t see that the angel of God is going to free us anytime soon. I don’t expect magic or that kind of miracle.

I just wonder whether or not our prisons and forms of enslavement we both bear and work on others are here for us to embrace and, within our incapacity to free ourselves, discover with the psalmist, the slow but saving power of God. May we be free enough to pray:

I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart,
for you have heard the words of my mouth;
in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise…
When I called, you answered me;
you built up strength within me.

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