They got it

by Fr. Jeff

It must have been my prayer book. The officer reminded me to empty my pockets of everything, even if I didn’t think it was metal. “Now come through.” Silence. “Good, you’re all clear.”

I picked up my vestments and stood at the gates.

I had always heard of this moment. The bars are intimidating, to say the least. To my left and my right are hundreds of feet of razor-wire. I see a guard patrolling. As the gates slowly open, I step into another world.

Slam.

And that’s just where You called me to be.

Prison ministry is immensely rewarding. From the moment they walked in, the truth was clear: “I have alot to learn from these men.” They savored every word; they concentrated on each response.

It was their first Mass with the Third Edition of the Roman Missal. They got every single word correctly. This wasn’t routine. For them, it was special.

Then the first reading was read slowly and deliberately. I may never fully appreciate that moment:

Isaiah 61:1-2,10-11

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God.

It was my first Mass in prison, and the reading was Isaiah sixty-one.

I looked up. The men nodded.

They got it.