I wasn’t really looking for proof that ‘God is in the House’…but I got some anyway when we had the chance to complete our Kairos Weekend at Menard this past Saturday and Sunday.
A couple of weeks ago, when the lockdown occurred that shuttered the originally-scheduled Weekend in mid-stream, it was a bit discouraging — not so much because it left our agenda unfinished, but because so many powerful things seemed to be happening inside the prison. As I wrote the day after,
While I certainly don’t relish the heartbreak, I realized upon further review that I was witnessing something of an Easter miracle behind those locked doors. We’d spent less than 30 hours together, but already a strong bond had grown between us. Christ was melting hearts – theirs and ours – and pouring out a full measure of mercy and affirmation in our midst.
At the time, we didn’t know when — or whether — we’d be allowed back in to continue the program. And frankly, as we headed back to Menard early on Saturday morning, many of us on the team were kind of wondering how the “restart” would work out: Could there possibly be the same level of energy, the same spirit, in the room some three weeks later?
Certainly, it was not the most ideal of circumstances. But as one of our Kairos brothers observed, ‘there is not a stray atom in creation.’ God’s presence might not always be obvious, he said, but God is at work in every circumstance, and under all types of unlikely conditions.
And so it was for us this past weekend.
The Holy One’s presence was made known to us in all kinds of remarkable ways during the final two days of our Kairos — some of the most memorable of which came during the “open mike” time of our closing ceremony. Participants were invited to share how their hearts had been moved, their outlooks changed, by the time we’d spent together…or more precisely, by the encounters they’d had with the Body of Christ.
One Kairos brother noted how he’d always felt close to the Lord when he lived on the outside — a feeling that had been taken from him during his years of incarceration. ‘I wanted that feeling back,’ he said. ‘I’ve been praying, “Lord, show me that you’re still with me!” And then Kairos came. The Lord answered my prayer.’
Another participant talked about how he felt like he’d been running for all of his 35 years on earth — running, but with no finish line ever in sight. ‘Now, I see,’ he said. ‘God saw me running all that time…and He was just waiting for me to get tired. God wanted me to get tired…so that I could finally fall into His loving arms.’
Yet another could not suppress the smile on his face, as he reflected on the forgiveness he had experienced during his Kairos Weekend. ‘It’s there for me — even me,‘ he said. ‘The chief of sinners…can be made into a saint.’
As for myself, I spent some time gratefully reflecting about the chance I’d just had to witness a prayer being answered in real-time. You see, several times during the course of the Weekend, we had recited the Kairos Community Prayer together. It goes like this:
Jesus, come join us in our journey
as we seek Your will for this community in this environment.
Teach us to love each other as You love us,
To give ourselves as You give Yourself,
So that the Kingdom of God might be made present to all. Amen
There’s no question in my mind that this prayer was answered — right before our eyes.
Love…and the Kingdom…had indeed come into the most unlikely of places.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy One.