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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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Out of Prison

Imagine that you are in prison. You are afraid. You have been whipped and mocked. Your feet are bound down in chains. A guard is at the door and there seems no way of escape. Who knows, maybe they will beat you more tomorrow? Maybe they will go even further? Can you imagine how desperately you might want to escape and run away?

Paul and Silas find themselves in this situation (Acts 16:22-34). However, instead of betraying their cause or crying out in despair and fear — they sing songs. They pray and sing hymns to God. The other prisoners listen and maybe find some consolation in their hymns. Suddenly, there is an earthquake. The guard is asleep. The doors fly open. The chains are pulled loose. Run! Run! This is the natural human sentiment. It is probably what most of us would do. Get out of there quick! Hide! Escape! Freedom!

The guard awakens and thinking that the prisoners have escaped, he draws his sword to commit suicide. He is like us. He feels that he has run out of options. If he takes his life, the authorities may spare his family. However, Paul shouts out, “Do not harm yourself! We are still here.” The jailer cannot believe it. He calls for a light, and there in the shadows are Paul and Silas. He falls at their feet. Why did they not escape? They speak to him and he asks them what he would have to do to be saved. Their action is changing him.

Suddenly he is more concerned about the salvation offered from God then simply avoiding the punishment from his superiors. His fear evaporates. He himself takes them out of the prison and to his household. He bathes their wounds and then Paul bathes him and his family in the waters of baptism. With a table spread out, they all then celebrate the newfound faith.

A jailor, whom many of us would have thought about murdering, was himself saved by God. There have been similar stories during our own age, where the witness of Christians in prison has lead to the conversion of their persecutors. We may not find ourselves behind bars for our faith, but we may sometimes be prisoners nonetheless. We can hide our faith behind the bars of indifference, prejudice, or even just laziness. We often fail to try to move people we love to greater faith in Jesus and we practically forget about those we dislike. Indeed, instead of praying and working for the conversion of all, we might be very selective in whom we choose to confide about Christ. Paul was not. Friend or foe, male or female, Jew or Gentile, slave or free, ugly or beautiful— the Gospel is meant for all.

For more such reflections, contact me about getting my book, CHRISTIAN REFLECTIONS.

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