11th May 2021
TOTAL PRISON BREAK
Today's First Reading is preceded by an incident in which Paul and Silas are imprisoned after exorcising demons from a young female slave who had a spirit of predicting the future. The young female slave earned a great deal of money for her owners through this action of fortune telling.
Paul became so annoyed by her because she followed him and Silas making him cast out the spirit of fortune telling from her in the name of Jesus.
When her owners realized that their source and hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and took them before the magistrates who in turn jailed them.This text challenges us to consider what it means to be free.
While the no longer possessed girl is free from her demon, Paul and Silas have their freedom taken away but not for long because while they are in jail, they pray until the jail doors are opened and their shackles are loosed thus gaining freedom together with other prisoners.
One curious thing that we should note here is that the jailer, assuming there had been a prison break, contemplated taking his own life. Why would a mistake in one's job be seen as so horrific that he would invite death rather than face the consequences or shame of admitting to a mistake.
Is this kind of pressure self-imposed or a product of a hostile political environment since the Romans were the rulers at that time? As a society, we must be cautious of the ways in which fear of shame and fear of consequences and how the rhetoric of law and order can work in opposition to Justice, peace and mental calmness.
Before we rejoice in Paul and Silas' freedom, let us remember that there is a local young girl who is still enslaved. What becomes of her? Does she remain in bondage to angry owners? The text leaves us with questions but not the answers. By not having answers in the text, we get an opportunity to think deeply about different forms of bondagey that we can be in.
This young woman was in spiritual chains while Paul and Silas were in physical chains. While prayer and worship can lead to the loosening of shackles that are visible, what happens when we remain bound in ways that are not readily apparent?
What if our political, economic, sexual and intellectual bondages are not readily apparent? Any holy work of healing must consider the entire person.
What if the prison break story is not just about Paul and Silas' freedom but about our unseen emotional and spiritual bondages that we need liberation from?
What if the prison break is teaching us that liberation is a communal act recalling that everyone's chains were broken, not a select few.
Are there people in our communities with unseen bondages, that they are not aware of, people that are forgotten and are in need of freedom and the ability to live in that freedom?