The word of the day is “open.” At times of excitement as well as distress, we often fail to focus on the most important thing of all, our relationship with Jesus Christ. Today in our reading of Acts 12:12-17, we find Peter knocking on the door of the house where the believers are keeping a prayer vigil for him. He has been miraculously released from prison and has made his way to where the faithful have gathered. Luke reports, “He came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying (OSB 12).
A girl answers the door and recognizes Peter’s voice. She is so excited that she runs to tell the believers that Peter is standing at the gate . But she has forgotten something–the most essential thing. Today, we consider how we can also forget the one thing needed in our spiritual lives.
Peter Left Standing Outside While the Believers For Him Pray Inside
While Peter stands at the gate, Rhoda, the maidservant (Strong’s #3814), hurries to share the astonishing news that though Peter had been locked up in prison, he had appeared at the door of the house. No one in the group believes her. But they debate whether she was deluded or had seen Peter’s angel (vs. 14). Meanwhile Peter keeps knocking (vs. 16).
Finally, someone has the presence of mind to check the entrance to the house. Incredibly, it is Peter. The apostle silences everyone so that he can relate how the Lord brought him out of prison (vs. 17). He never does enter the house but leaves instructions that the astounded believers should tell “James and the brethren” about what had happened (vs. 17). And then he leaves to seek a refuge from Herod who would try to imprison him again.
A Metaphor for One Who Stands at Our Door
We might take this humorous story as a metaphor in our spiritual lives. At the door of our hearts stands One who stands who like Peter stood outside the house of Mary, mother of John Mark. The One who desires to come in to our souls is the Crucified and Risen Christ. He states in the Book of Revelation, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.. If anyone hears my voice and I will come in to him and dine with him and he with Me” (OSB Revelation 3:20). He is at our doorstep and continues knock. But we might ask ourselves, are we keeping Him standing there at our soul’s door like Rhoda kept Peter waiting.
Our application of this story teaches us that we can fail to answer his persistent knocking. We can be excited that He is there at our doorstep and yet neglect to invite Him inside.
What Keeps Us from Opening the Door
IIt is not only preoccupations that can keep us from opening the door of our hearts to the Lord Jesus as He stands beside us. Even holy and sacred things can keep Him waiting. The beauty and grandeur of the rituals of the church may overwhelm us. The elation of corporate praise may overpower us. The eloquence of a preacher may stir us. But if these spiritual experiences do not lead us into a closer relationship to Christ, then they are distractions from what is essential to our salvation. They make us forget who it is who standing at the gate of our hearts, who it is who wants to stay with us and abide in us and we abide in Him (John 15:4).
Love Silence and Cherish Stillness
St. Isaac the Syrian said, “The highest form of prayer is to stand silently in awe before God.” As the story of Elijah on Mt. Horeb teaches, it takes silence to hear the voice of God. It takes stillness to notice that it is the Lord Jesus knocking at the door. It takes spiritual quiet to open the portal of our hearts to let Him come in to dwell with us.
The Psalmist said, “Be still and know that I am God” (OSB Psalm 46:10). In the same vein, St. Isaac the Syrian said, “Love silence. This will make you illumined in God like the sun and deliver you from the illusions of ignorance. Silence unites you to God Himself” (St.-Isaac-the-Syrian 1984, 308).
Today let our study motivate us to seek the stillness of the soul and silence of the heart. Then by God’s grace, we will discover that the Lord Jesus Christ has been waiting for just that kind of peace to quietly call us to deeper and closer relationship with Him.
St.-Isaac-the-Syrian. 1984. The Ascetical Homilies of Saint Isaac the Syrian. Translated by Holy Transfiguration Monastery. Brookline, Mass. : Holy Transfiguration Monastery.