Deacon Steven Johnson’s Reflection 8-18-22

Deacon Steven Johnson’s Reflection
Reflection for the 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Thursday, 8-18-22, Year C
Readings: Ez 36:23-38; Ps 51:12-15, 18-19; Gospel Mt 22:1-14
Theme: Recognizing When to Change Our Ways

Tom counted the days he had left until his release from prison. He sat in his cell and thought about how he got there, and what led him to that end. He had spent nine years and    360 days in prison to that point. His crime, assaulting a man while robbing his business for money to pay for his drug habit. He thought, “Five days to go, that’s it.” What was he going to do with his life after prison? Was he changed or did prison harden him even more? He pulled out his Bible and prayed to God for an answer.

His “celly” (cell mate), Jim, had been in for eight years, and this was his second stint. He lived almost the same life in prison as he did outside, hanging with the wrong crowd, making deals for cigarettes, beating up people who were not in his circle, etc. When Tom asked what he was going to do when he got out, he replied, “To live the same life that got me in here only this time I won’t get caught.”

The day came for Tom to be released from prison and start his second chance in society. That same day Jim also was released. The two men did not say a word to each other as they walked out the prison gates. Tom was met by his sister who was there to pick him up and take him to her home where they would figure out what to do next. Jim was also met, but by his gang friends, laughing, slapping back,s and passing beers around. The two men went separate ways.

Six months later Tom was at his regular AA meeting. He had remained clean from drugs and was holding down a job. His sponsor sat next to him. As he sat there, a guy came and sat in the empty chair next to him. It was Jim. Tom asked him, “Wow, fancy seeing you here!” Jim replied, “Yeah, I was invited to come by my Ma’s friend. I’m getting myself cleaned up, turning a new leaf you know.” Tom thought, wow that’s great and turned back to listen to the speaker.

Near the end of the meeting, during the social hour, Tom saw Jim darting around talking to multiple people, all who gave the same response to him, “Get away from me!” A plain-clothed, officer who was part of the staff, noticed Jim bothering people and confronted Jim about what he was doing. It was not long and Tom saw the officer handcuffing Jim and dragging him away along with a bag full of drugs he was trying to sell to the addicts who attended the meeting.

Jim received a 25-year prison sentence for drug possession, intent to sell, and violation of his parole. He went to prison alone with no gang friends this time to support him and only enemies to greet him in prison.

Tom never again did any drugs. He worked his way up in the company he started with and is now the manager of a large distribution system for consumer goods. He is married and has two kids.

We all make mistakes. Many times, we do not recognize those who are trying to help us, and we can treat them poorly. God is always inviting us to change our ways and repent of a life of dissipation and, we have the power to accept it or deny it. Tom was invited to the wedding feast while in prison and he took the time to understand God and what His will was for him. He changed his ways and was rewarded with a new life and family who gave him joy and contentment.

Jim, too, was invited, yet he did not take the time to understand how his ways were displeasing to God. He continued to live his life of dissipation as he wanted. When invited to change his ways and be among those who have done so, he tried to use it for shameful profit, selling drugs to those most vulnerable to them. He came to the feast but did not have a wedding garment. He was tossed out into the street where there was wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Accept the Lord’s invitation to bring you back from a life of sinful habits, sprinkling clean water on you and cleaning you of all your impurities. Let Him give you a new heart and place in you a new spirit, taking from you your stony heart and giving you a natural heart. Live by God’s statutes, careful to observe His decrees. Doing so will be your ticket to the ultimate wedding feast of which you will have the most splendid wedding garment of all.

Published by St. James, Belvidere

Saint James Catholic Church, Belvidere, IL