Mass of Thirty Third Sunday of the Year
15 November 2015 15 November 2015
St. Macartan’s Cathedral, 10.30am
My dear friends,
If you look closely at the Bulletin each Sunday you will find on most Sundays we are asked to remember a special cause or two or more. This Sunday one of the messages for the Bulletin did not quite make it there. It was a notice from the Road Safety Authority to remind us that this Sunday has been designated by no less a body than the U.N. as World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. We are asked today to remember those who have died on our roads, as well as the families, friends and communities who have been devastated by their loss. At least 130 lives have been lost on our roads this year. It is a worthy task to ask us to consider what we can do to prevent more loss of life on our roads this year. We were requested to put a note to this effect in the Bulletin for today and to include a prayer of the faithful for this intention.
If you look closely at the front cover of the bulletin you will see a double notice designating today as Prisoners’ Sunday and next week as Restorative Justice Week. I cannot claim to fully understand what Restorative Justice is but I can have a shot at explaining what it is. Quite a few citizens are not fully satisfied with how our system of justice operates and think it could be greatly improved. A good number see Restorative Justice as the best means of doing this. They start by reminding us that prisoners are not just the isolated individuals which society has banished from its midst in the name of justice. The perpetrators of crime are members of the human community and no matter how often we banish them or for how long, they are still members of the human race.
So are the victims of crimes, they quickly add, those whose lives have been shattered and broken by violence and the misdeeds of other members of their community. They long for healing and the restoration of their dignity. The violation inflicted on them cries out for justice. They point to incidents in the life and teaching of Jesus Christ when justice was based on forgiveness and reconciliation and the perpetrator was given the opportunity to make amends. Those who support restorative justice claim that a good system of dispensing justice would help restore right relationships between perpetrators and victims of crime and would involve the community in its proper and rightful place.
So for those who support restorative justice, they would look for victim involvement, community protection and victim accountability. They claim that in the present system the perpetrator is often removed from the community without facing the pain and devastation his actions caused. The victim is silenced and side-lined and the community accepts no responsibility for what happened. They claim no solution is sought, just a guilty or not guilty verdict. We could go further and deeper into the debate but maybe that is more than enough about restorative justice for a Sunday morning and I say that with respect.
The third designation for this weekend is that today is Prisoners Sunday and prisoners are one of the groups which the Lord asked for special attention on our part along with the widow, the sick and the poor. There is a body called the Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas (ICPO). It was established by the Irish Bishops in 1985 to provide information, support and advice to Irish people imprisoned overseas and their families. It currently supports in excess of 1200 Irish prisoners in more than 25 countries around the World. The ICPO Penfriend Scheme has approximately 80 volunteers who write to about 100 prisoners at any one time. Christmas is understandably a difficult time in prison. Let me finish with an actual letter and reply which were exchanged between a prisoner and a pen-friend before last Christmas. We will call them Peter (the prisoner) and Bernie (the penfriend).
God’s peace to you today. I hope this will find you well. Next week the Christmas will be here and it will mark my 18th behind the wall. So much has happened over those years that I can’t believe a person can be so complicated. I have learned many things over these years, some good and some not so good; I learned about the compassion of Jesus, how to pray without too many words, how to be a friend, what family really means, about my weaknesses and if left untreated what can happen. I came in with little education and this coming June I’ll graduate from Boston University with a Bachelor’s Degree. I could sing but I couldn’t play an instrument, now I play guitar and sing. I’ve seen cruelty, racism, been betrayed, sick without treatment, seen dead men handcuffed to stretchers and things a human being should never see. The question I find I keep asking myself is: should someone like me ever have anything good in my life (like the things I have listed)? Why did it take my coming to prison for taking another person’s life to truly understand what life really is? And, is there really a place in this world for people like me besides prison? Peter
It was a wonderful surprise to get your letter this morning and I felt honoured that you choose to share with me in the way that you did. Please know that I stand in awe of what you have achieved; your Bachelor’s degree, your music and your work with the Cursillio weekends. You frequently write about sponsoring men for the sacraments and working with those who are being baptised and confirmed and I wonder how you can question the value of your life when you do such good work. Despite the horrors you have experienced your life is rich and filled with God’s goodness and your spirit is not confined by prison walls. Every person is restricted by walls of one sort or another, some are walls of fear and insecurity, some are walls of social class and others of poverty, some are walls of bitterness and hatred, others are of bigotry and evil and some are walls of concrete and wire. Psychological walls are far more restricting than physical ones but it is how you deal with life within your walls that makes the difference.
For myself, your letters are a joy to receive and it is indeed a good day when I find one in my mailbox. You have become an important part of my life and I thank God that he has seen fit to bring you into it. Thank you for your prayers, it is humbling to know that someone prays for you every day and be assured that I pray that you will have a good day with some happiness thrown in. I pray that you will not lose hope, that you will not be lonely and above all that you will forgive yourself as God has surely done.
May the Christ child bring peace into your heart and mind for Christmas and be with you as you journey into a New Year.
Kind regards, Bernie
The Lord has assured us that in doing to others in need we do to him. We tend to care for the sick, we can be charitable to the poor, and give some support to the widow. Prisoners are more often forgotten about than given any of our attention. We need reminders.
+Liam S. MacDaid
15 November 2015