“the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains” Acts 12
I have wondered at this verse all my life. Peter, as far as he knows, is about to die for the Faith, and he is asleep. Asleep? He is chained and guarded. There is no way out and no hope of reprieve because Herod wants him dead. In the face of all of this, Peter is asleep. What kind of man is this who is so at peace before his death that he sleeps? I used to be able to sleep anywhere and anytime so that people would say that I could sleep standing up. However, if it was the night before my death, would I be sleeping? Probably not.
The Church was praying for Peter and an angel would deliver him, but Peter didn’t know that at the time. He was so trusting in his Lord that he feared nothing, even death (and this from the man that denied the Lord three times). I wish that I had such faith and courage, but I am no where near the holiness of St Peter. I don’t wear his chains. The chains on Peter are those that came from being a martyr (remember that the word martyr means “witness”). I have been a rather poor witness so I do not wear Peter’s chains.
Oh, I do wear chains but they are the chains of Jacob Marley and Ebeneezer Scrooge. I have forged them all my life and they have been quite heavy and ponderous. My pride, selfishness, passionate nature, sinfulness, anger are a few of the things that make up the links of my chain. The Lord has removed these from me many times through my baptism, confession, and repentance, but like a dog returning to its vomit, I have picked up the chains and put them on again. Foolish, so very very foolish.
I do not lose hope. Perhaps the first step is realize that I am bound by chains. My habitual sins chain me and guard me for death. If I know this to the deepest level of my soul, then when the Lord removes them again, I will remember the word – “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” ( John 8.36) Knowing this freedom from my own chains, I can pick of up the chains of St. Peter. I can be a free man, a witness who sleeps even in the face of death. I hope that my Church prays for me like they did for St. Peter.
How can I help you? Well, at least, if I rattle my chains, you may come to know your own. If you do, then may the angel of the Lord deliver you, so that someday you may sleep in peace bound by the chains of St Peter.
I will rattle my chains, but you may think that I am just “an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato.” Even so, it is the best I can do.