Last week one of the readings for Mass was taken from Acts 12, which spoke about how King Herod had the apostle James killed by the sword, and then threw Peter in jail with the intent to later execute him. “[Herod] had him taken into custody and put in prison under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. He intended to bring him before the people after Passover. Peter thus was being kept in prison, but prayer by the church was fervently being made to God on his behalf.” (Acts 12:4-5)
Four squads of four soldiers each to guard this one man. Herod meant business.
The reading continued, “On the very night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter, secured by double chains, was sleeping between two soldiers…” (vs. 6). That line jumped out at me. What was Peter doing? Sleeping.
Here was Peter, locked up in prison, four squads of four soldiers assigned to guard him, bound by double chains and awaiting trial and execution the next day, and he is sound asleep. How far Peter has come!
I thought back to the story in the Gospel when the disciples were with Jesus in a boat and a violent storm came up. Jesus was in the back of the boat sleeping on a cushion when his panicked friends woke him crying, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” It must have been quite a storm if those veteran fishermen were afraid for their lives. Jesus calmly got up, rebuked the wind and waves, and everything got completely still. He then turned to the disciples and asked, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
Jesus was teaching them, in a vivid and striking way, to put their trust in God. Yes, storms arise and bad things happen. But God is watching over us and will provide whatever we need in our hour of need.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Peter had been on that boat in the storm with Jesus. He had watched how Jesus slept undisturbed through it, secure in the knowledge that God is in control. Even creation obeyed the Lord’s command to be still.
So having learned from his past mistakes, Peter is now sound asleep during his own turbulent crisis, doing what Jesus did back in those stormy seas. This could have been Peter’s last night on earth before meeting a brutal death but he chose to put his faith in God and catch a little shuteye.
We know what happened next. A heavenly angel came and miraculously rescued St. Peter from jail. It wasn’t his time to die yet — God had more work for him to do on earth. And Peter would not die at the hands of this King Herod. (Read on in chapter 12 of Acts to find out what happened to that king.)
Applying the lesson
So how does this apply to us? We all have our own stories, our own personal “salvation history”. We have learned things along the way, and many of those lessons come from past mistakes we have made or crises we have emerged from. It is so important that we review our lives from time to time and reflect on what we have learned. Ask yourself:
- What were some of the past storms in my life?
- Did I get through them?
- How did I get through them?
- How did God help me in that particular crisis?
- What can I learn from that?
As we learn from our past, plumbing the many rich lessons we will find there, our humility and faith will grow and we will increase in wisdom.
And one day, like St. Peter, we will be able to sleep through any storm knowing that God is faithful and will never abandon us, no matter how bad things may seem.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27