But during the night, the angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison,
led them out, and said,
"Go and take your place in the temple area,
and tell the people everything about this life."
The Acts of the Apostles is full of high comedy as the Spirit-guided disciples of Jesus run smack into the petty leaders of religion and government. Clearly, the Holy Spirit is not going to be foiled or frustrated by the rules. The Gospel must be announced and there's no time like now and no place like here.
In this story, the angel of the Lord directs the apostles to "tell the people everything about this life." Many years later, drawing on the memory of that moment when the angel opened prison doors and gave him a new command, Saint Peter would urge his people:
Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope ....So if someone said to you, "I see you go to Church; tell me everything about this life." what would you say? Where would you begin?
First, we know, love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. There's no point in calling yourself Catholic or Christian is you are not fascinated by, and fastened to, Jesus. His guiding Spirit is our guiding spirit; our decisions, attitudes and opinions are formed in relationship to him. Nothing in our life is outside his purview.
The Acts of the Apostles witnesses the extraordinary dimensions of this transformation. The disciples who fled the Garden of Gethsemane in abject terror walk out of the temple jail and into the temple courtyard and take up where they left off, announcing the Gospel. They are simply fearless. Neither Jewish nor Roman authorities can daunt them. They will face the hazards of travel on land and sea without hesitation. If anyone dies at the hands of an enraged mob or by a king's command, the rest fill his place.
We call this fearlessness freedom. The disciples of Jesus simply ignore the restrictions that customs and law place upon the Gospel. When "they tell the people everything about this way of life" the first thing people notice is their freedom. That unspoken declaration of independence is powerful, attractive and delightful; the people of Jerusalem find it irresistible.
These ancient Christians speak to us again today and from that same part of the world. Security has become an idol and so-called terrorist ruthlessly exploit that general, paralyzing weakness. The love of security undermines democracy; it eats at our sanity like the parasite of mad cow disease.
We have better things to do. We must tell the people everything about this way of life.