Peter’s jailbreak and our fears

I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Psalm 34: 5

Today’s first reading (Acts 12: 1-11) is one of several major jailbreaks found in the Acts of the Apostles. After the apostle James had been killed, Peter was arrested.

Waiting in jail, bound by chains and with four squads of four soldiers each, Peter is awaiting trial and death. But God has other plans.

An angel enters Peter’s cell, filling it with light, but the two guards at his side don’t wake up or notice anything. The angel tells him to get up and as he rises the chains fall off. He walks right past the guards and passes through the prison gates.

There is a beautiful portrayal by Rafael of this scene in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.

Rafael's Deliverance of Peter (detail)

Rafael’s Deliverance of Peter (detail)

Paul and Silas are also rescued from jail, but by an earthquake (Acts 16: 23-40).

And so Paul writes (in Romans 8: 38-39):

I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The message of Christ is a message that casts out fear.

For many of us our lives are ruled by fear – fear of loss, fear of risks, fear of and fear of death. Thus tyrants, criminals, and dictators rule by fear.

We want security – and so risks are what frighten us. We become afraid of the Other and demonize those who are different from us.

But when we encounter a person free from fear, we have a glimpse of the power of God to overcome evil and death – not by the sword but by the gift of one’s life.

That’s why saints Peter and Paul should inspire us today – their courage, their freedom from fear enabled them to go beyond their weaknesses and let the power of Christ work in them. It enabled them to die – but, first of all, to live lives of commitment, love, and testimony to God’s saving power.

St. Paul outside the Wall, Rome

St. Paul outside the Wall, Rome

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