FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
OUR THEME FOR 2013
THE EMPTY PRISON
April 10, 2013
The all-powerful God works in mysterious ways. Seeming defeat leads to victory, darkness to light, death to life. Jesus was crucified, died and was buried. It seemed to be over. His disciples dispersed and went back to their previous preoccupations. But on the third day, Jesus rose from the dead. Then the tomb was empty.
In the case of Jesus’ disciples, the powers-that-be “laid hands upon the apostles and put them in the public jail.” (Acts 5:18). It seemed to be over. They could rot in jail. Their flock would be dispersed. “But during the night, the angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison, led them out” (Acts 5:19). Then the prison was empty.
Jesus came into the world to save us (Jn 3:17b), out of God’s great love for us. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16). Jesus then sends his disciples to proclaim that salvation. “Go …. and tell the people everything about this life.” (Acts 5:20). We are to evangelize.
This work is very challenging. First, the reality of the world’s situation is “that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil.” (Jn 3:19). Many people live a worldly life, preferring the allures of a darkened world to the light of Christ. There is much natural resistance to the gospel.
Secondly, worldly powers, that have dominion over the world, will naturally oppose those who will bring God’s light into the darkness. These powers will persecute those who proclaim the gospel, harming them, putting them in prison, preventing them from doing their work.
These seem like a formula for defeat and disappointment. Indeed there will be seeming defeats and there will be disappointments. But God would just be setting things up for His glorious victory, in which we share. “Whoever believes in him will not be condemned” (Jn 3:18a).
We just need to always turn to God, and be assured that He will “(deliver us) from all (our) fears” (Ps 34:5b), that our “faces (will) not blush for shame” (Ps 34:6b), that “from all (our) distress he save(s us)” (Ps 34:7b). The angel of the Lord opened the prison doors for the apostles. And in our case? “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he saves them.” (Ps 34:8).
The tomb could not hold Jesus. The prison could not hold the apostles. What is it that holds us back, that imprisons us, that keeps us from boldly going forth to evangelize?
We have nothing to be afraid of, except God and His judgment. “Fear the Lord, you his holy ones” (Ps 34:10a). We must BE.LI.EV.E and proclaim the name of Jesus, for “whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (Jn 3:18b).
Faith works wonders. Let us ensure that our “works may be clearly seen as done in God.” (Jn 3:21b). And let us be assured that “blessed is the stalwart one who takes refuge in him.” (Ps 34:9b).
* * *