"There was suddenly such a severe earthquake that the foundations of the jail shook; all the doors flew open, and the chains of all were pulled loose." Acts 16:26
Several years ago, on my way to Honduras to visit our young friars studying Spanish, I stopped in El Salvador for a couple of days, and while there experienced a small earthquake. It was unnerving, to say the least. One of our Salvadoran postulants immediately jumped up and ran out of the building. Because he had suffered through a major earthquake, he was taking no chances. Like the guard in the prison where the apostles were jailed, I didn't know what to do. I sat there hoping it would pass and waited for instructions from the Salvadoran friars.
Facing the unknown often leaves us paralyzed. When a friend or family member dies suddenly, we don't know what to do or say. Nothing about our life experience prepares us for the jolt of unexpected loss. Stunned, we might resort to platitudes to settle our own minds or comfort friends, but they are empty words that help us negotiate in the dark, not a lasting path to insight or hope.
Acts of the Apostles helps us in this regard. The guard in the jail is woken by the earthquake, but when he discovers the doors are all open, wants to take his own life. Fearing he will be blamed for the prisoners' escape, he is so upset that he wants simply to end his life rather than face the consequences of something for which he was not responsible.
St Paul, on the other hand, yells at him not to act rashly, assuring him that he and all the prisoners have not run away. Consoled, the guard asks for baptism. The faith that Paul and his companions exhibited moves him to see the earthquake, not as a destructive event but as an invitation to open the doors of his heart to the Christ who lived in Paul and the other prisoners.
Today, pray not to overreact to the surprises and trials life, but to wait in prayer to know God's desire.
Have you experienced "earthquakes" in your life that led you to deeper faith?