May the Peace and joy, the love and blessing of Christ be with you!
I have been allowing this entry to percolate throughout the day as I reflected on what I wanted to share. Today, I sat with the thought of having celebrated Palm Sunday yesterday with a group of 150 inmates in the Eden Detention Center. It was a powerful moment to enter the gates of the center, and to hear the loud click as the gate shut behind me. Slowly, I entered a world that is both foreign and new to me. After the initial formalities of signing in, going through the X-ray and having our ID's taken up, Deacon and I were escorted through the facility to where the simple metal chapel is. Upon entering, I was amazed to see that so many men had come for mass, I was even more touched to see that there was a full band that had come together for the celebration! The place was abuzz because for the first time in many years, the inmates were to participate in the mass in their native language, Spanish. The celebration itself was beautiful in its own rite and while there were few men who received communion, every one of them participated to the best of their ability. Today, I have also had the opportunity to watch the movie "Of God's and Men," again. This is a film about seven Trappist monks in Algiers who were kidnapped and killed by terrorist in the mid-nineties. After much persuasion and threats, the monks had decided to listen to God's call as they continued to serve in the monastery where they were. This refusal to leave eventually cost them their lives, but in reality, they had long ago decided to give those lives up for the sake of Christ.
I write about these two incidents because in some ways, the readings for Passion Sunday are about discipleship and our call to follow Christ even when the road ahead is filled with uncertainty. Unlike Judas, who believed himself able to manipulate God, discipleship is about Peter, and being willing to constantly turn toward God even in the face of death and destruction, clumsiness and denial. Discipleship is being able to follow the Master and to be open the His call even if it seems to end at Golgotha. It is precisely about trusting that God's call will not lead me astray, but rather, to a place where life and love will prevail, even in the midst of fear or for those prisoners, behind bars. My thought throughout today was about the ability to give up my life for the sake of the Kingdom, not only in service as a priest, but as a faithful witness to a love that calls me beyond the cross, beyond the tomb, to the glorious moment where new life prevails, the Resurrection! Discipleship is having the courage, if not the understanding, the continue following the Master, our Master, even as he Himself takes up His cross. Discipleship is being able to encounter God's love, not only in the bluebonnet covered fields of Texas, but also within the scary and institutional walls of a prison. May we each continue to follow our Master, and from Him, may we be filled with love so as to proclaim that Christ is Risen, not just in good times, but always! As always, remember that I love you and may God bless you. Fr. Rick