A prison isn’t supposed to be comfortable. I get that.
But does it really have to be so cruel?
The question was posed to me inside Menard yesterday, in a slightly different form, by “Hector”…a man I know only a bit – a recent participant in one of our Kairos Weekends.
Hector is a quiet man, and he possesses a gentle spirit. But his spirit has been troubled in recent months by interactions with other inmates. One of them – a bully – has singled Hector out for a cruel shunning. “He calls me a liar,” Hector says. “And he tells ever-body to have nothing to do wid me, cuz I’m a liar.”
It sounds like an injustice…one I’d very much like to be able to fix. But that’s not the heart of the matter – not from Hector’s perspective. He’s more interested in my take on a bigger question: the question of evil.
“If God is powerful…if God is good…then why doesn’t God just make every man good? Why do some come out mean?”
Prison has become a crucible for Hector, a place where the pain of broken interpersonal relationships has begun to forge something new in him. He’s encountering an eternal Mystery there…and I realized as I was speaking to him that I was being invited to offer him something more than a biblical bromide.
But what could I say?
I wrestle with the same question myself, after all: Why does the Mighty One not rouse her power and come? Why does God ever permit evil to have the upper hand? Why do cruelty…and injustice…and indifference…so frequently seem to win the day?
There sat Hector, awaiting my answer.
And in that moment, the prison had also become a crucible for me: What do I know, really, of God’s great design?
Only this, perhaps: That inexplicably, God desires my desire. That God offers me freedom…even if it inevitably means I will at times make bad choices. Even if it means I might well bear some measure of evil into the world.
And along with freedom, God offers me Christ.
I actually managed to say something like that to Hector yesterday – that by losing ourselves in Christ, we make room for more Christ in our little corners of the world.
It’s perhaps worth noting – as Saint Paul tells us in today’s Gospel Acclamation (2 Cor 5:19) – that this has been part of the plan all along.
God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ…and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.