5th Sunday in O.T. (A); February 5, 2017
Is 58:7-10 Ps 112 1 Cor 2:1-5 Mk 5:13-16
Deacon Jim McFadden; Folsom Prison
What can salt and light teach us about God and his Kingdom? What can it teach you about living here in Folsom Prison? Jesus used very ordinary images to illustrate the Kingdom of God—that condition where human choice intersects with the Father’s will. Salt was a very valuable commodity in the ancient world. People traded with it like we do with gold and stock. Salt also had a useful purpose in hot climates many centuries before the invention of electricity and refrigeration. Salt not only gave food flavor, it also preserved meat from spoiling.
Jesus used this image of salt to explain how his disciples are to live in the world. Just as salt purifies, preserves, and penetrates, so the disciple must be as salt in the world they inhabit. How can you help to purify, preserve, and penetrate the society of Folsom Prison for the Kingdom of God and his right way of being in the world? There’s a basic choice: either you live out of your own willful purposes in the pursuit of the goods of the world—such as security, reputation, pleasure, and control–or you live according to God’s purposes because He is the center of your life.
What would that look like? The prophet Isaiah in the first reading shows us the way.
“Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the
oppressed and the homeless;/
Clothing the naked when you see them, and not
turning your back on your own” (Is 58:7).
In other words, you do what God does: you give yourself away—you share your gifts, talents, and time with your fellow inmates. You share the Eucharistic bread with those who are hungry by bringing Christ to them. Just as you receive the Bread of Life at Communion, as you leave the chapel you become the Bread of Life to C-facility. You shelter those who are oppressed and homeless—that is, those who have lost their connection to the one true God– by witnessing that there is an alternative way of living that will liberate them and bring them home. When we “move, live, and have our being” in Christ Jesus, we are free and are grounded in what is True and Good. When you are being conformed to Christ, you become transformed and it shows. In you, inmates in this yard will know Christ. For some the only Gospel they’ll read is the seeing the way you live your life. That’s why inmates who don’t attend services, still recognize that something good is happening within you. So, they bring you their prayer requests so that you will pray for them and their loved ones when you gather in community prayer.
Jesus also used the image of light and a lamp to further illustrate the Kingdom of God. Lamps in the ancient world served a vital function, much like they do today. They enable people to see and work in the dark and avoid stumbling. The Jews also understood “light” to be an expression of the inner beauty, truth and goodness of God. As the Psalmist says In his light we see light (Psalm 36:9). Jesus is the Word of God and, as such, his word is a lamp that guides our steps (Psalm 119:105). God’s grace not only illumines the darkness in our lives, but it also fills us with spiritual light, joy, and peace. Yes, the darkness of Folsom Prison can be filled with light, joy, and peace if you cooperate with grace. If you say “yes” to God’s invitation to intimacy, communion, and fellowship, you then become God’s instrument. Brothers, as the light of Christ shines into your hearts, it not only enables you to see the reality of God’s Kingdom here in prison, but you become a light-bearer of Christ so that others may see the truth that you are experiencing. As members of the Body of Christ, the Church, Jesus is relying upon you to help others to be freed from the blindness of sin and deception that is the dominant consciousness of this culture.
Brothers, we can’t hide from God. Nothing remains hidden or kept secret. We can spend a lot of energy trying to hide things from others, ourselves, and from God. How tempting it is to shut our eyes from the consequences of our choices, our sinful ways and bad habits, even when we know what those consequences are. Even though we can fool ourselves, we can’t deceive God because EVERYTHING is known to God who sees all.
Once we accept that, once we surrender to the One who is our beginning and end, we will enjoy great freedom and joy because we are living in his Light. Those who listen to God and heed his voice and obey his will, will receive more from him. They will receive Life in abundance.
Brothers, do you know the joy and freedom of living in God’s light?