“Why do you come in here to be with us and teach us about Jesus when you could do that outside?” one prisoner asked during a meal on the prison retreat.
“I do teach about Jesus to people out there.”
“Why do you come in here?”
A few months ago, I would have said it was because my sister started getting involved in prison ministry. Or that I became interested when a priest I had known for a long time became the prison chaplain. Yet neither of those things really answers the question of why I keep coming back.
“Because I find God in here,” I said. “I guess it is actually a selfish reason.”
He looked at me, a bit taken aback. “You find God in prison?”
“Yes, I find Him in you when you ask questions. I find Him in your desires to be better. I find Him in Scripture because reading certain things in prison strike me differently than when I read them anywhere else. I find God here.”
It was entirely true.
In many ways, God is present in the prison. Sometimes, it is a struggle to see Him in men who are insincere, overly attentive, or unwilling to self-reflect. Other times, He is so apparent in their faces that shine with an innocence despite their criminal record, in their hearts that desire fulfillment just like mine does, and in their genuine gratitude that the outside world has not forgotten about them.
Jesus is opening hearts and setting people free in prison. It was a tremendous gift to see the Lord’s tenderness on full display. The freedom He offers cannot be limited by bars or walls or life sentences. There, in the midst of a state penitentiary, the Divine Physician was healing souls and mending broken spirits. He never forgets about them; let us always remember them, too.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound…Isaiah 61: 1