It is interesting that when Our Divine Lord describes what will take place at the general judgment, he pictures a scenario in which the entire human race will be divided into two groups—those who are eligible for Heaven, and those who are not. And he will say to the former, “Come, blessed of my Father. I was hungry, and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was in prison and you visited me. . . .”
Now that I am going to visit a prison near here, those words of Jesus take on a wonderful new meaning. I will ask the inmates to think, and pray, very seriously over those words. I was in prison . . . I doubt very much that most of them have thought of this identification that Our Lord makes of himself with them. Given the past life of many of them, and the treatment they’ve received by the law-enforcement structure, they probably don’t feel much like Jesus.
Apropos of this, let me suggest that you read very slowly and prayerfully the 88th psalm, which begins: O Lord, my God, by day I cry out. . . On one of our visits to the Holy Land, my travel group were taken down into an underground dungeon under what is thought to have been the palace of the High Priest. It is very likely that Our Lord was kept in confinement down there in that cold, dank, totally dark hole during the night after the Last Supper and his arrest in the garden of Gethsemani. If you read Psalm 88, you get a remarkably clear idea of what might have been going on in Our Lord’s prayer life during those awful hours, when he knew that his crucifixion was just hours away. While we were down there, they turned off the lights and we were in absolute darkness, and then a seminarian slowly recited Psalm 88 to us. I will never forget that moment. We say that psalm in the Night Prayer for Friday in our Liturgy of the Hours; it never fails to bring back to me the memory of that visit to the subterranean dungeon in Jerusalem.
I would ask your prayers now and then for the prisoners whom I visit, and for all prisoners. May they come to know and love Our Divine Lord who was a prisoner himself, a convict, and then one publicly and horribly executed. Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God Bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.