February 10, 2019
A letter to a man accused of Murder;
Today Reverend Mano Salla gave a homily on his definition of prayer. I may write him to get the words verbatim. However, for now my brief interpretation will have to do.
- Know thy self: Take time out to become aware of one’s self in quiet reflection. Recognizing our creatureliness and propensity for sinful acts. Presenting privately between you and God alone the great divide as you understand it and the specific action(s) or lack of action(s) that you would be weary of presenting to God (or a fellow human being) today.
- Mercy and Gratitude: After reflecting on your shortcomings and being intimately and honestly aware of your desires and propensities for good and evil thoughts or actions, seek God’s mercy and express gratitude and acceptance of whatever may come if only we can be closer to his presence. Radically give to God all that you are (Good and Bad) and pray for his saving grace and guidance in every moment.
- Alchemy: Through action and prayer live seeking a transformation in Christ, through his redemptive powers and your humble actions and discipline to go forth in whatever situation you are in, with reverence, acceptance, and praise for God. To allow God into your heart and soul and be open to the mystery of faith, that God can do what humans alone cannot achieve.
How can this help me when all is lost and the dead cannot be made un-dead?
We: I say to you we do not understand death or afterlife. Yes, the murdered are no longer with us – we have taken them even though only one maybe convicted of the singular action. We have a collective guilt as human beings where each of us can and should be doing more to promote a cultural of valuing and humbly believing it could have been us that wielded a bloody knife if circumstances had been different for us, we could be the accused or the guilty murderer. No one can judge us by God’s measure but God. We do not know the outcome of the lives we have taken by human hands (genocide, abortion, war, murder, allowing starvation and poverty, and general apathy for others). We can pray that a merciful God has received them.
You: Nonetheless, as we are mortal and of the earth you will be judged fairly or unfairly by man’s justice and opinion. You cannot alter history or bring the dead back to life. You can pray for forgiveness, pray for the dead and for the families that grieve, and pray for God’s mercy. You can pray to use the remainder of your life, whether behind bars or outside the prison walls, living according to God’s will in thought and in action. Perhaps by the time death’s door comes to you God may have provided you with the opportunity to become transformed and redeemed through his saving grace alone and your humble actions from now until the day for your death comes as well.
I cannot imagine the anguish of living in prison awaiting condemnation for murdering another. Rage and anger for an innocent man and remorse and guilt for a guilty man. You are alone regardless of your proclamation of innocence or guilt – you are condemned as guilty unless proven otherwise despite our judicial systems declaration – “the law presumes all innocent of crime until proven guilty.” Many an innocent man has been found guilty and many a guilty man set free. Your predicament is a brutal one. I in my heart know only God can see you through your suffering and loneliness – no man, fellow accused, or even priest can help carry your suffering and anguish. Only God can help with your willingness to transform pain and suffering into a holiness born out of tragedy.
Things will never be the same as before you found yourself behind those walls. Relinquishing the past and accepting the current trajectory – whatever it maybe – is the beginning. Finding God or letting God be your freedom to transcend the physical walls, bars, and demeaning existence of prison life is in my view your best hope for peace now and salvation later.
Prayer for you and those around you:
We pray, our Father, for those whose freedom has been taken from them: for all who suffer imprisonment, whether for crime or for conscience’ sake; for all whose vision of your world is seen through bars, and in whose heart the lamp of hope burns low. God of mercy, give them help, according to their need, and hear our prayer for Jesus Christ’s sake. (Timothy Dudley-Smith)
Don’t go it alone:
Find the prison chaplain and use your time wisely. Nationwide Christians are reaching out to bring inmates faith and possible redemption like Behind the Bars in Delaware (https://www.behindthebars.org/).
May this letter find you safe from physical and psychological harm. May my writing not offend you or be taken as any form of judgement of you directly. Accept my letter as a written prayer and expression of God’s love for you. I am deeply saddened by all those whose lives have been cut short by murder and all those who sit in judgement (guilty or innocent) of such crimes.
1: a medieval chemical science and speculative philosophy aiming to achieve the transmutation of the base metals into gold, the discovery of a universal cure for disease, and the discovery of a means of indefinitely prolonging life
2: a power or process that changes or transforms something in a mysterious or impressive way
If you are reading this and are not an inmate – please consider giving to a prison ministry in your area or to Delaware Prison ministry above. If not out of the goodness of your heart and charity – how about just recognizing most inmates will be your neighbor soon!