Today’s find: Scenic view

I tried hard not to be jealous when a friend told me about his plans to spend this weekend skiing in Colorado. Then he sent a photo of the view he’s enjoying in Telluride.

Needless to say, it’s spectacular – a lot more inviting than what I see peering out from my deck today.

Part of me is wishing I was there, in Telluride… Photo: Dave Smith

I suppose it didn’t much help tame my Green-Eyed Monster to realize that while Dave was savoring his Rocky Mountain high, I was heading to prison – joining other Kairos volunteers for a monthly reunion.

Let’s see: Sip a latté on the veranda…or submit to a pat-down search at Menard? For a while there, it surely seemed like Dave had chosen the better way to spend a Saturday.

But here’s the thing about prison ministry (a truth that Dave himself knows very well): More than likely, the Holy Spirit will have some surprises in store for you on the inside. Just keep showing up, and you’ll see spectacular things alright. Remarkably holy things.

And so it was on Saturday, when we encountered a couple of modern-day St. Pauls – teaching us through their vulnerability about the power of the Spirit.

There was Jason, sharing observations about his personal prayer time: “Distractions happen all the time,” he said. “Distractions are a tool of the Enemy – so you got to set them aside, and get back to quiet.” I noticed in that very moment, I had been giving in to distractions. I had been allowing my “monkey brain” to run wild as our program proceeded. So Jason’s words served as a timely and gentle reminder from the Holy Spirit to be present and focused.

And then there was Henry, talking about his weakness – and about the taunts he often experiences for professing faith in Christ. “They tell me ‘you use Christianity like a crutch,’” he said. “But you know what? I’m gonna keep my crutch – because it’s the only thing keeping me from acting a zip fool like I was on the street.”

(“Zip Fool” – that was a new one on me. It turns out Henry had cleaned things up a bit for us.)

St. Paul would have understood exactly where these two guys are coming from, I think. In a passage from his letter to the Corinthians heard at Mass this week, Paul underscores his own personal shortcomings:

I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom.
For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you
except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling…

Indeed, in his vulnerability, Paul mirrors the very image of the Crucified One. Why is that?

…so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom
but on the power of God.

Now, take note of this: Surely God is mightier than the tallest mountain. Yet somehow God chooses to manifest power in and through powerlessness. It’s an odd and captivating — even mystifying — scene that Paul (and Jason and Henry) paint for us. And as I learned yesterday, you don’t have to travel to Telluride to take it in.

There’s often a strange beauty to the Christ one encounters inside the prison.

Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.


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