12th / 13th October 2019

posted 18 Oct 2019, 06:23 by Parish Office

Homily for the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C – Prisons Week (12 & 13/10/19)


Who are the outcasts in today’s society?  At the time of Christ, lepers were kept out of cities and lived on the margins.  Perhaps today, one category of people that we could include would be prisoners.  One of the purposes of prisons is to safeguard the public from those who are deemed to be a danger to society.  It has been said that of all the Pastoral Letters Archbishop Maurice Couve de Murville ever wrote in his seventeen years as Archbishop of Birmingham, the one that drew most complaints was when he suggested that people should forgive prisoners.  Let’s put things another way:  if you had spent time in prison, after release, would you be happy to tell a group of strangers at a party, “oh, for the last five years I’ve been in prison”?


As a priest, I have visited places that many of you will never get to see in your lifetime.  Not only have I visited mental health hospitals, but also prisons.  In my first parish, we used to celebrate two Masses on Saturday in the main prison and one Mass on a Thursday in the open prison.  Some of the men who used to come to Mass wouldn’t be your normal Mass-goers, but it gave them a chance to get out of their cells for a while, although obviously under supervision.  And that can then be a chance for them to hear the Gospel.  Even if someone doesn’t receive Holy Communion, just by attending Mass, you can receive many graces from the Lord.  One prisoner said to me that coming to Mass really gave peace and light to his week.  After prisoners are released, maybe not all of them continue with Sunday Mass, just like only one of the ten lepers thanked Christ for his healing.  But a seed has been sown that could grow later on.


When Naaman the Syrian sought out the prophet Elisha to be healed of his leprosy, he got more than he bargained for.  Not only was he healed, but he was given faith in God, and the resolution to give up worshipping any other so-called gods.  His healing was both physical and spiritual.


For some people who go to prison, they get more than they bargained for as well.  Whilst there are the bad cases, some get to know God and turn their lives around.


It can be tempting to write people off.  But in prison, we don’t know how God’s grace will work