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Acts of the Apostles 16:22-34

The crowd of Philippians joined in and showed its hostility to Paul and Silas, so the magistrates had them stripped and ordered them to be flogged. They were given many lashes and then thrown into prison, and the gaoler was told to keep a close watch on them. So, following his instructions, he threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

Late that night Paul and Silas were praying and singing God’s praises, while the other prisoners listened. Suddenly there was an earthquake that shook the prison to its foundations. All the doors flew open and the chains fell from all the prisoners. When the gaoler woke and saw the doors wide open he drew his sword and was about to commit suicide, presuming that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted at the top of his voice, “Don’t do yourself any harm; we are all here.”

The gaoler called for lights, then rushed in, threw himself trembling at the feet of Paul and Silas, and escorted them out, saying, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They told him, “Become a believer in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, and your household too.” Then they preached the word of the Lord to him and to all his family. Late as it was, he took them to wash their wounds, and was baptised then and there with all his household. Afterwards he took them home and gave them a meal, and the whole family celebrated their conversion to belief in God.
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John 16:5-11

Jesus said to his disciples:

“Now I am going to the one who sent me.
Not one of you has asked, ‘Where are you going?’
Yet you are sad at heart because I have told you this.
Still I must tell you the truth:
it is for your own good that I am going
because unless I go,
the Advocate will not come to you;
but if I do go,
I will send him to you.
And when he comes,
he will show the world how wrong it was,
about sin,
and about who was in the right,
and about judgement:
about sin:
proved by their refusal to believe in me;
about who was in the right:
proved by my going to the Father
and your seeing me no more;
about judgement:
proved by the prince of this world being already condemned.

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Moments before I sat down to reflect on today’s reading, I was in the toilet where my family has, at present, a book of stories similar to the one I use for OXYGEN. We keep it there for those times when we are in the toilet and have nothing else to read. I’ve been going through it as well and I had just read a story about a young officer who was promoted. Deciding to give his wife a surprise, he did not tell her when he got home, thinking that she would immediately notice the extra bar on his shoulder. But he was greatly disappointed when she remained completely silent, and after a while, it became apparent to him that she was very sad when she started to cry. “What’s wrong?” he asked her, to which she replied, “You didn’t even notice my new hairdo!”

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus faces a similar thing with his disciples. He had just told that that he was going away and was disappointed that they did not even ask him where he was going. They had been too focused on themselves, at their loss of their master and teacher that they did not think of him; they thought only of themselves. Jesus’ words contrasted their behaviour when he tells them that what he is doing is for their good. He shows us that he thinks of others before thinking of himself. That’s love.

In the first reading, we see something similar. Paul and Silas had just been whipped during the day and now they were imprisoned. When the earthquake shook their chains free, and broke open the doors, they could have ran away. In fact, had it been me in that prison, I probably would have run away as well, I think. That’s because I would be thinking of myself. I would be thinking, I just want to get away from this place, and now that God had provided me the opportunity, I had better use it.

Paul and Silas, on the other hand, were not thinking of themselves. They were thinking of their jailor who, when he thought that the prisoners had escaped, was going to kill himself. Their jailor too had been thinking of himself, thinking of the punishment he would get from his superior and wanted to escape it through death.

But Paul and Silas demonstrated the love that all Christians are called to have. They thought of their jailor and reassured him that they were still there and had not escaped. When their jailor was touched by their loving actions, the Spirit of love entered his heart and he began to think of others - Paul and Silas. We read that he took them to wash their wounds and gave them a meal. Even before the word of God was preached to him, the Spirit of God had already entered him.

At this point, let us recalled the opening line of Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical “Deus Caritas Est”. He writes, “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” We see this clearly demonstrated by the conversion experience of Paul, Silas, and the jailor.

Remain in the love of God therefore, and always try your best to love others. Only by doing so can you be sure that you are remaining in the love of God, and that God lives in you.
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Prayer:
Dear Lord, today we offer up all those who are struggling to love someone. Grant them the grace they need and the willpower to love those who are most difficult to love. We also pray for all spouses who are going through a difficult period in their marriage, may they experience your love from others so that they may continue to love their spouses with whom they share an indissoluble bond. Amen.

Give Thanks to the Lord for: Reminding us to think of others before ourselves.

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