Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Penal Practice

Feast of the Visitation

Daily Readings
Psalms 78:1-39 + Joshua 20 + Amos 8 + Luke 1:39-49

Quote of the Day
…let those who boast boast in this, that they understand and know me, that I am the LORD; I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, says the LORD. Jeremiah 9:24

Daily Text: Joshua 20:7-9
7 So they set apart Kedesh in Galilee in the hill country of Naphtali, and Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the hill country of Judah. 8And beyond the Jordan east of Jericho, they appointed Bezer in the wilderness on the tableland, from the tribe of Reuben, and Ramoth in Gilead, from the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan, from the tribe of Manasseh. 9These were the cities designated for all the Israelites, and for the aliens residing among them, that anyone who killed a person without intent could flee there, so as not to die by the hand of the avenger of blood, until there was a trial before the congregation.

Lectio What one word or phrase from the Daily Text leaps out at you? ‘Comment’ below.

Penal Practice
The cities of refuge are one of the pillars of society in Israel. Provided for in Exodus and Numbers and Deuteronomy, they are set in motion in Joshua. Two of these cities are within the tribal framework of Joshua and Caleb. Fascinating. Coincidental?

While the community is the primary focus, individual rights are paramount. Can you imagine committing a heinous crime inadvertently and being loose in a society where family/clan vengeance was the law? These cities of refuge were necessary to individual protection, though the protection was both boon and bane for in order to remain safe one had to be confined in that small city, sometimes for years. Most likely those provided this refuge were bound over to the priest and worked out their own keep more or less as an indentured servant. However, Soggin suggests “…the guest of a city of refuge might have found that they were not only a place of refuge, but also the means of subsistence which an ordinary sanctuary would have refused him. If this explanation is valid, we would have here one of the numerous examples of an advanced social conscience, typical of the whole world of the Old Testament [418:198].

The penal system in any country is one with which citizens should concern themselves, and certainly Christians should be concerned. The protection of the community is the first concern of penal law and provision, however individual prisoners are part of that community and deserve the continued interest of it. Certainly, we should not stand back and allow government or institutional servants to abuse prisoners or the systems that house them. These folk continue to reflect the image of God no matter how imperfectly and the nature of society seems usually to allow those who abuse most egregiously to escape the demands of the law altogether, perhaps because they are the wealthiest, the most powerful, and often the most respected. By definition those confined within a penal system are the powerless, the oppressed, and the racially disadvantaged. These are always the concern of God, the prophets, Jesus and human-being-willing the Church.

Meditatio What would you add to this commentary on the Daily Text? ‘Comment’ below.

Prologue to Morning
Hermann Hagedorn

Watchman, what of the night?
The night has no stars and the winds are rising.
Watchman, what of the sea?
The sea is wild, and the shores are strewn with ships.
I hear.
What of the hearts of men?
They are as the night, and as the sea.
Watchman, I am Everyman, and I am troubled.
Where is my hope?
Your hope is where it has been.
Watchman, your answer is dark.
To your mind, but not to your heart. Let the heart
Listen and it will hear,
Though the winds cry and the seas break.
My heart is open.
What does it hear?
What else?
A crying, as of a child lost in the dark.
A crying?
A fury, as of a child destroying his toys.
No more?
A Voice.
A Voice?
A Voice that cries, Think!
What else?
A Voice that calls, Aspire!
What more?
A Voice that whispers, Believe!
Bow down, and hear!
A Voice that commands, Dare!
Lift up your eyes!
Watchman, what have I heard?
You have heard God speaking to Moses and to Socrates;
To Jesus in the lonely places,
To Isaiah and Amos and Micah,
And Peter and John and Paul and Francis and Joan.
You have heard God speaking to all His saints
Who have fought for the recognition of His glory,
And for liberation, and the expansion of the imprisoned, the dwarfed spirit.
You have heard God speaking
To the men who dared the seas to build a new nation,
To Franklin and Washington and Jefferson
And all the makers of the immortal Declaration
That utters the hunger for life, for liberty and the right of man tobe
free of the chain, the bars, and the whip.
You have heard God speaking to Abraham Lincoln—
And to you.
To me? What am I that the God Who spoke to these
Should speak to me?
What does the Voice say, the Voice in the heart?
The Voice says, You are of the great succession.
Men have torn down, men have broken, men have destroyed.
It is yours to build, says the Voice, yours to build.
Out of the disaster of hate to bring the miracle of love.
Out of the fury of destruction to bring a new creation.
By men has the world been brought low.
By men shall the world again be lifted up.
By men and the Voice of God.
The Voice of God is calling through the world!
It is calling to me.
I hear!
What does the Voice say, the Voice in the heart?
The Voice says, Everyman,
I have a burden for you and a splendor.
You are the end of things—
Or a new world.
What more?
The Voice says, Day and night, let your heart listen.
What is your answer, Everyman?
My heart is listening….
Then the new world is born.

Alternative poem? Include under ‘comment’ below.

Oratio Conspire to respond with an act of kindness for someone you encounter today. Make it loving, low key and low risk. Hold a door, clean a car, give a flower, notice the unnoticed, make Christ’s love real. Write your experience below under ‘Comment.’

Contemplatio Enjoy what God is doing through you.


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