Friday of the second week of Advent, 2022

    December 9, 2022

    “I, the Lord, your God, teach you what is for your good, and lead you on the way you should go.”

    Have you ever spoken with a truly transformed person?

    Many times a truly transformed person is someone who has experienced great trials of adversity, disease, harm to themselves, or harm they caused to another person. They were transformed by surrendering their life, will, and spirit to a power greater than themselves, whom many call God.

    Saint John the Baptist, who overshadows the readings this week, was considered a good teacher and prophet. Surprisingly, he attracted followers by calling them to name their brokenness, failings and need to change. St. John modeled openness to receive what was to come. He removed himself from the busyness and distractions of life to recognize God as the true teacher who would “lead us on the way you should go.”

    Many secluded people in our jails, prisons and detainment centers today model this same transformation. They have learned the hard lesson of where surrendering to distractions and self can lead. They lived the ‘high’ life and found the path to being ‘somebody’ was not the fulfillment God created them to be. In prison they have been stripped of all the distractions of life and have had time to hear God’s voice interiorly or through a companion on their journey behind bars, calling out their need for change.

    When John the Baptist and Jesus walked the earth, the distracted and busy never stopped to hear their words. The followers of John and Jesus, by and large, were the stripped and the powerless. Their willingness to stop, listen, reflect, repent and change gave them peace and hope. They let the inner voice of God lead them where they should go — “Their name was never cut off or blotted out from my presence.”

    With Christmas quickly approaching, let us find time to stop, reflect and listen. Take the time to listen to the men who practice centering prayer behind bars, which enables them to hear God speak. God is working all around us, especially among those he spent time with on this earth, the outcasts and people removed from society. Consider following the call of the Beatitudes and visit or write to the imprisoned, where you might find the face of God.

    Karen Clifton, MDiv, is Executive Coordinator of the Catholic Prison Ministries Coalition, with which Catholic Charities USA is a collaborating institution.

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