The Paradox of Being Confined

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But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s fetters were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” (Acts 16:25-28)

This is one of several accounts from Acts that finds St. Paul and his companion Silas imprisoned, because St. Paul expelled an evil spirit from a woman who was being used by owners to make a profit from predictions she would make. St. Paul and Silas sing hymns while shackled. We hear about the earthquake, which led to the prison doors being opened, and anyone who was shackled being set free. Yet, Paul and Silas stayed where they were at; free to leave, but remaining. The jailer thought all were gone. He was about to kill himself when St. Paul replied, “We are all here!”

Most of us would have run from the prison when the option was there to escape. Yet Paul and Silas used this opportunity to preach the gospel to the jailer, who then took the both of them home to care for them. The jailer and his family were baptized that same evening. St. Paul’s shackles resulted in freedom, but they did not seek to escape their confinement.

Sometimes being confined can be for our salvation and welfare. For example, when children are put in a time out for discipline, there is a learning experience that takes place. Children are instructed to think about why they were put in time out and what they did wrong. They are encouraged to think about how to behave differently the next time. Once children do this work with their parents, they are released from the time out. May we all come to better understand how confinement in many cases can lead to good things and not bad.

A blessed Feast of Ascension to you,

With love in Christ,

Archbishop Paul

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