A reflection on Pentecost from one of our dear Vincentians, Mike McNamara:
Acts 16: 22-34 It’s a great story about the power of God to cause earthquakes and free us, or so I originally thought.
Imagine being with Paul & Silas, as they were preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ. Could be pretty scary stuff and hard to believe 2000 years ago. Still is today for many. At Mass my 4 year old granddaughter ask about Jesus on the cross. After I told her the story in my simplest “4-year old” language, she said, “Why were they so scared of Him?” Why indeed?
Now, for a few minutes, please close your eyes and imagine being beaten and thrown into prison and staked down in chains with Paul and Silas, guarded by an unbeliever with a sword! How are you feeling now?
Then “suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were unfastened…” You are now released from your chains and your prison doors are flung open, so you can escape. Isn’t God great! But wait…..
Now, you notice the guard drawing his sword! How fast would you and I be running? Here’s the rest of the story!
Paul & Silas didn’t run; they stayed! They knew that the guard was about to kill himself, because the prisoners were escaping and Roman law would require his life for failing to do his duty. Instead Paul and Silas yelled and got the attention of the guard, so he wouldn’t commit suicide. Now put yourself in the guard’s place. My reflection is that the guard must have been amazed that these guys were willing to risk their life to save his.
Earlier, he may had heard them preach or heard about what they were preaching. But, when the guard was the “real life” recipient of God’s love and realized that Paul & Silas were “walking the talk” and truly caring for him, he was converted. It wasn’t the preaching or the earthquake, it was the body of Christ in the hearts of Paul and Silas that made the difference!
Later that night the guard took Paul and Silas to his home to clean their wounds and feed them. The guard and his household were then baptized.
We’ve probably heard the saying, “No one cares how much we know, until they know how much we care.” Now we know how true it is and what real love is. None of us, including Paul & Silas, would have had that divine love to “give of themselves” without the grace and power of the Holy Spirit…the same Holy Spirit who came to the apostles and all of us at Pentecost. What a wonderful and fulfilling way to be Christ to others as we serve as Vincentians!