“They were given many lashes and then thrown into prison.”
Tuesday, 19 May 2020
Acts 16:22-34; Psalm 137(138):1-8; John 16:5-11
Sometimes these days of lockdown remind me of lockup, in 1986 to be precise, when with 20,000 other anti-apartheid thinkers and activists I was, like Paul and Silas in today’s first reading, “thrown into prison”.
The emotional and psychological responses of lockup and lockdown are strikingly similar. Indefinite detention left one with a sense of wallowing in limbo, not knowing the date of release. One of the warders even said – perhaps in a moment of indiscretion, or perhaps primed by the security branch to feed into our cloud of unknowing, “It’s harder for you guys. At least the criminals know the date for their release.”
The current pandemic puts us all into a kind of indefinite detention, not knowing when this will all end.
Then there is the sense of grief, grief at the loss of so many things – no human contact with loved ones, no freedom of movement, no Eucharist, no outdoors, no comfort food. There is a real feeling of grief these days, not only for the thousands dying but for all our losses.
There were 27 of us. Each one had down days, leading others immediately to carry, support and encourage. Grief and self-pity gave way to empathy. Long live empathy for these days too!
“Late that night Paul and Silas were praying.” (Acts 16:25) Praying was difficult until one learned to pray in context. Not business-as-usual prayer, but one more grounded in reality, leading to prayer of abandonment to God, prayer of surrender to the Spirit praying within, and prayer of intercession for one’s fellow inmates and wider. Most of all, praying the Psalms, like these verses from today’s psalm: