On Sunday of this past weekend, I went to celebrate Mass in the prison to which I go twice a month; it’s 15 miles south of Lufkin. This is the first time in my life I’ve had anything like a regular ministry to prisoners, and I have enjoyed getting to know them and to see how much they appreciate what I can offer them by way of the Mass, the sacraments, and counseling.
Yesterday, one of my “regular customers” as I call them was very happy over the fact that he will be released in just three weeks. On several occasions, I have tried to explain to them the parallel between this life on earth and their time in prison. Both of these are temporary conditions. Both of them are much less happy and desirable than their opposites; and if we are men and women of faith and hope, we should look forward to death and entrance into eternal life just as prisoners look forward to the end of their sentence and their return to their homes and families.
In the prayer “Hail, Holy Queen,” we say to Our Lady, “to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.” Happiness is a relative thing. We who live normal lives in our own homes and families are much happier than prisoners who are locked up in jails and penitentiaries. But we are nowhere near as happy as those who have been admitted into the heavenly home for which God created us and to which he destines us. Our Divine Lord Jesus Christ gladly gave his life on the cross in atonement for our sins so that we could be admitted into that state of total and eternal happiness. And for that reason, we speak of this life as a “valley of tears.”
So, I say to my prisoners and to you: live here (either in prison or in this life) in such a way that you will not incur further guilt. And then, look forward to the moment when you who are prisoners will get out of prison, resolved to lead good, upright lives. And let us all look forward to that moment when the Lord will come to take us out of the prison of this world into the bright joy of eternity. After that, no more dark valleys; no more mourning and weeping; no more tears. Only the eternally youthful LIFE which Jesus says that he came to bring us—and that in abundance. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you.
Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.