Ransom The Captive
Week 7 | Corporal Work of Mercy
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” (Luke 4:18)
(Kerry Weber attended a Catholic Relief Services trip to Rwanda to report on the country’s 1994 genocide and the healing and reconciliation that had taken place since. After she shared these stories with the chaplain of the San Quentin State Prison, he asked her to share the stories with prisoners in the restorative justice program.)
And so I found myself standing in front of about eighty men in the San Quentin prison chapel, unsure of how my talk would be received. I didn’t know if they would want to hear of the violence and pain in the stories I brought, given the violence and pain they’d experienced or perpetrated in their own lives. I didn’t know if they would be interested or bored or angry. And I certainly didn’t expect the kind, polite welcome that greeted me.
I told the stories of the men and women I’d met in Rwanda, as the men in the California prison sat quietly and attentively. They listened intently and asked intelligent questions. They were thoughtful and kind. They readily shared from their own lives and talked about the painful divisions, some gang related, that had caused them problems. They were eager to talk about forgiveness, to try to move forward, to move on, to remember. They shook my hand and spoke about their prayer lives.
And there, in the middle of the prison, in this place so purposely cut off from the rest of the world, I felt a part of a community. It was a community that included both the men beside me and the men and women I’d met halfway around the world, all of us struggling, suffering, seeking forgiveness. All of us trying to become better. And I felt then that the true power of such community is in the way we accompany one another in this struggle. We are meant to accompany each other, as Christ accompanies us. We carry each other. We urge each other. We encourage each other. And one of the wonderful parts of being in a merciful community is that our fellow community members are able to see things in us that we might not see in ourselves. Others may see gifts or talents that we possess that we might not be willing to acknowledge. They see our faults too. We help each other stay on the right path when we can. And even in our imperfection, our own brokenness, we can help others heal. Together, and with the grace of God, we are lifted up, let out, set free.
Excerpt taken from Chapter 6 of Beautiful Mercy. Get your free copy of the book (just pay shipping).
Would you want to be defined by the worst thing you have ever done? God doesn’t want that for you either. The only sin that can’t be forgiven is the one you never ask forgiveness for. Redemption is for everyone.
Pay attention to the people around you this week. Encourage someone in need.
Blessed Lord, help me to know that your Spirit is upon me. Guide me as I share your mercy.