Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Wednesday in the 2nd Week of Easter
From the Common Jail to the Temple

Readings: Acts 5:17-26; Psalm 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9; John 3:16-21

The thing that catches our attention in the readings today is the stark contrast between how each reading begins. The first reading begins: prompted by jealousy, they arrested the apostles and had them placed in the common jail… The gospel begins: God loved the world so much that he gave his only son… On the part of the high priest and his associates, we hear of jealousy giving rise to captivity and condemnation and the darkness of the dungeon. While on the part of God, we hear of love inspiring a precious gift of Self and the fullness of life lived in the brilliant light of God's presence.

The interplay of these two forces is something that we probably all experience in our own lives and in our own hearts. On the one hand, to varying degrees, we probably know what it is like to be held captive by various obsessions and compulsions. Sometimes it may be a deep loneliness that prompts us to enter into inappropriate and destructive relationships with other people or with things. At other times it may be a profound insecurity making us succumb to workoholism or competition. Whatever may be the inner demons that enslave us, isn’t it true that one good indication of their presence lies in the conscious or unconscious desire to ensnare others as well? Could this be what is happening, for example, when some parents relentlessly push their children to excel in as many disciplines as possible, even at the cost of their children’s mental and emotional well-being? Like the villains in the first reading, something goads us into forcing others to join us in the common jail of our enslavement to all that is less than God.

And yet, God refuses to leave us in this miserable state. Even when, filled with shame at our own weakness, we may be moved to give up on ourselves and on others, God refuses to give us up. God refuses to condemn. Instead, God reaches out to save. Isn’t this the experience out of which the psalmist is writing today, when he proclaims: this poor man called and the Lord heard him and rescues him from all his distress? And once we experience that liberation, like the apostles, we too are moved to tell others all about this new Life, in word and in deed. For this is what God delights in doing. God frees us from the common jail so as to usher us into the Temple where we might tell of the wonders that God has done.

In the common jail or in the Temple – where do we find ourselves today?

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