Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Easter

To be confined to a prison unjustly has to be one of the most painful experiences any human being can have. Slavery and human trafficking are forms of being imprisoned unjustly and violently. Force, domination and violence are the benchmarks of injustice, which deprived another person of their rights and dignity.

Being imprisoned unjustly seems to be an experience common to those who threaten individuals and organizations in power with the truth. Paul and many others in the ancient church were imprisoned because their beliefs challenged many of the religious leaders at the time. John the Baptist was locked away because he became a threat to Herod and his wife. Many of the early Christians were placed in prison due to their faith in Christ and because they refused to bow down to Roman gods and emperors.

Today, many are locked in prisons due to their religious faith or political leanings; think of China, parts of the Middle East, Cuba, just to name some obvious examples. But the horrible beauty and painful truth is that wonderful things can come out of people who are locked away unjustly, sometimes for years and years on end. Nelson Mándela gave birth to a movement of liberation through the years he spent in prison. 27 years in prison!! After his release, the apartheid government would soon collapse.

Martin Luther King faced numerous imprisonments due to his leadership in compelling our country to face the ugly and violent truth of racism embedded in the very ethos of our culture. Everything was “fine” as long as people were segregated and those in power kept their power. And the dominance of white culture remained intact. MLK wrote some of the most beautiful letters during his various imprisonments that encouraged those who read them to keep challenging this dominant culture to change.

I remember vividly the tremendous controversy when a television program starred a Black actress for the first time ever... in 1968. I watched the program by myself in the basement. So many of us were “imprisoned” in our own ways of seeing people and race, due to accepting what was handed down to us. When we become free of the prison of racism, we become more beautiful human beings.

Prisons can’t contain the truth, nor can they diminish the human spirit to be creative, if the individual is able to withstand the piercing oppression and isolation. Not everyone has this capacity for transcendence in such desperate situations. Faith and prayer provide the fertile grounding for flourishing in the midst of suffering.

John of the Cross, the 16th century mystic and friend to Teresa of Avila, created some of the most beautiful poetry the world has ever known while locked in a tiny room for over a year.... by his own brother priests!!!

Jealousy creates prisons.

What might be an inner “prison” that encloses and shrinks your heart? Facing this prison will be the beginning of your ability to let the creative spirit free you to BE creative, transforming the world in which you live.

Fr. Frank