There seems to have been enough evidence to convict Paul and Silas of being different, but this did not silence them. They “were praying and singing hymns of God as the prisoners listened….” The earthquake freed all the prisoners and the jailer was going to kill himself thinking he had failed in his responsibility to secure the prisoners. But no one had left; once the jailer had assured himself of that he immediately attributed the miracle to the God of Paul and Silas and asked how he could be saved. Paul and Silas then taught him and his whole family the word of the Lord and they were all baptized and then celebrated with a meal.
What was the cause of the jailer’s conversion? Was it the earthquake that set everyone free, or was it the fact that the prisoners did not leave, or was it the prayers and hymns that Paul and Silas sang? Maybe it was all three, but it obviously was about Paul and Silas’ witness. Signs are not meant for self-glorification or self-enjoyment, or to make one’s own life easier. They are always about the glorification of God and as tools of evangelization.
Just as with Paul and Silas, our faith in Christ becomes known – and evangelizes others – by the signs that accompany us. What kinds of signs accompany your daily life? What makes you noticeably different from others? Granted our actions may not be of ground shaking proportions, but we never know how our kind words and actions may shake up someone’s long held assumptions, or heal someone’s wound, or return them their dignity. We often fail to realize the importance of our words and our daily living and how they affect our spouse, our children, our co-workers, our neighbors, the grocery store clerk, the people we interact with in ministry and worship, even total strangers who do not know us personally.
In twelve days the Church will celebrate the “sending of the Advocate” that Jesus promises in today’s Gospel. We have ALREADY received the Holy Spirit. Therefore, each of us is filled with the Holy Spirit. Although we have not perfected our holiness yet, we ARE holy, since we have been made in the likeness of God. The question is: How does anyone else know that we are holy?
The word “holy” does not mean “divine” or “perfect” as we often assume. It means “to be different” “to be set apart.” I hope you noticed that “holy” is a verb, an action word, not a noun. When Jesus tells us to “be holy as my Father is Holy,” he is telling us to act as God acts, but he also explains that does not mean to dominate or judge or “lord it over others,” rather in all his parables and by his example, he tells us that God ‘acts’ patiently, kindly, compassionately, inclusively, accepting of us just as we are, and over all of that God acts lovingly.
Our faith in Christ becomes known – and evangelizes others – by the signs that accompany us; the signs of God’s presence within us: compassion, wisdom, patience, forgiveness, humility, healing and love that accompany our daily lives. It is “the mind of Christ” that sets us apart, that makes us different from the world, that makes us known as “one sent by God” to evangelize the whole world.
All should know we are Christians by our love.
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