A New Life for a Jailer
Homily for Tuesday of the Sixth Week in Easter
Of all the characters we encounter in today’s Scriptures, the nameless jailer in the Acts of the Apostles is an interesting fellow for our reflection. He is instructed to guard Silas and Paul securely – which he does. He takes these tortured, bruised, and battered men and puts them in an innermost cell with their feet secured to a stake. They are not going anywhere, not on his watch (and certainly not in their condition).
As he performed his duties, it would not have seemed any different from the countless other prisoners he managed and guarded before. Yet, as Paul and Silas pray, as the chains fall, as the foundations of the prison shake and the doors to the cells open, it is clear to the jailer that this is not like other times. He fears the worst – that the prisoners have escaped – and so, in shame and in fear for his life, he draws his sword to kill himself.
What he thinks is the worst, however, is far from it. He could not have anticipated when he drew his sword to end his life that his life would indeed end…but not in the way he anticipated. When Paul shouted, it was the beginning of a new and more wonderful life for the jailer, one in which he became Silas and Paul’s caretaker, welcoming them into his home and being baptized along with all his family.
In today’s Gospel, when Jesus was speaking to his Apostles at the Last Supper and promising to send the advocate who would come to them, none of them could have anticipated the effect this would have. Often, our minds go to the bigger essential moments characterized in the Scriptures – the Resurrection, Pentecost, or the notable conversion of Saul into Paul. Yet the Lord doesn’t want us to forget the “nameless ones” like the jailer who are waiting for our proclamation, our witness, and our prayers to experience the new life the risen Christ wishes to share with all creation.