As children we always had a pet in the house: dogs, cats and for a while even an aquarium filled with exotic fish. I’ll never forget the baby rabbits my older brother snuck into the house without my mother’s knowledge. When she found one cowering underneath the kitchen table one morning, she ran upstairs, started packing and announced to us when we came home for lunch that she was taking our younger sister and moving out to our country home. She wouldn’t be back ‘til we ridded the house of this new infestation of mice. Our country home while nice, was very primitive. It had no running water or electricity. Surely we knew she meant business. While she never made the move, I think my older brother learned his lesson and hasn’t brought another pet into our or his home since.
When you bring a pet into your home you commit to feeding, walking, playing with and sometimes taking them to the vet when they get sick or hurt. I spent most of my adult life without a pet and just a couple years back relented and took in a stray cat I found shivering on my back porch. She looked hungry and scraggly. What could I do? Since then she has brought much joy to my home and in many respects made my house a home.
The jailer in today’s first reading eventually invites Paul and Silas into his home, bathes their wounds and feeds them. Not only does he find new life, but so do his family and whole household. I wonder how many prisoners, like homeless people, addicts, those with mental illnesses, I have locked up, keeping them at a safe distance from me? I wonder if I would find new life if I invited them into my world?
Dan O’Donnell is a Passionist Partner and a longtime friend of the Passionists. He lives in Chicago.