In today's First Reading (Acts 16:22-34) Paul and Silas are attacked by the crowd, then the magistrates had them stripped and beaten with rods. Then after 'inflicting many blows on them', they're thrown into prison, into the 'innermost cell with their feet secured to a stake'. It's all said in an almost matter of fact bit of writing, but one's imagination (at least mine) begins to work. Think about it. Paul and Silas are probably proclaiming he Good News everywhere they go, and some accept the word and some do not. Folks gang up on them and at the least start pushing them around, but more than likely things became worse. Knocked down and kicked, thrown punches out of nowhere to the side of the head, verbal abuse, we know how crowds get today, we've seen it on the news, and I'm sure it wasn't much different then. Then dragged off somewhere to be stripped and beaten with rods. I can really only picture this whole thing for a bit. It's a wonder Paul and Silas lived through it. More than likely some sort of permanent damage was done to their bodies somewhere. But not to their faith. After spending the night singing hymns of praise, after God provides an earthquake to blow open the doors and break their chains they then show love to their oppressor by telling him not to kill himself, they are still here. So many levels of Christs' spirit is moving here in this story. But the point I'm trying to make is that Paul and Silas were witnesses. Paul particularly never stopped witnessing, and I'm sure Silas didn't either. And as we witness in this story, the power of the Holy Spirit turns the jailer into a prisoner of Christ, as Paul converts him and his whole family. Like I said earlier, the matter of fact telling frees the imagination, lets us put ourselves back in time to then, as we feel the blows rain upon our backs as rod rips flesh.
And they never wavered.
Last weekend H and I attended the K of C Wives/Widows/Priests/Religious Appreciation Dinner at a local restaurant. As we had small talk with Knights and wives it became apparent that what H and I consider Catholic and spiritual had nothing in common with the two wives who were doing most of the talking with us. Now I'm not going to get into a 'who's holier than who' contest. I am no different than anyone, a sinner am I, probably worse than them, I'm sure. I'm not going to go into what was said, you've all heard the same things we heard, statements that come from good people, just luke-warm Catholics. My point is, the whole situation made me uncomfortable, to the point where I just didn't have the correct answers to refute what they were saying. And when I did have them I was lukewarm in my effort to challenge them, to change their minds or as St. Paul and Silas did to proclaim the Good News to them. I was not a very good witness. I had the opportunity and I failed miserably. I didn't have that fire burning in my heart when I needed it most. I don't want to be the kind of Catholic that does only well around like minded people. Even sinners love sinners. I'm hoping I can find at least a little bit of St. Paul in me. This is something I have to work at.
Holy Spirit, be with me when I need you most,
in times of trial and wickedness.
Flood my heart with the light from above
and free my lips to do His will.