January 21, 2018
Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them. —Hebrews 13:3a
Let us, on this Criminal Justice Sunday, be reminded of these sad facts:
- That our country is the world’s leader in incarcerating our own
- That the United States of America, which holds 5 percent of the world’s population, holds 25 percent of the world’s prisoners
- That the vast majority of people incarcerated in our country are from poor, inner-city neighborhoods and are of predominantly African-American and Latino descent
Let us be reminded also that our stance on punishment is in sharp contrast to our Christian gospel’s redemptive message of repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation, as expressed in Luke 4:18; and that our salvation, individually and collectively, is linked to our treatment of those in prison, as declared in Matthew 25:41–43.
Society’s stance on criminal justice is historically a pendulum swinging between restorative and punitive. Our country is long overdue for prison reform based upon rehabilitative and restorative principles, as practiced in other developed cultures with which we compare ourselves. This should include the “Mandela Rules,” reflecting the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the abolition of for-profit prisons and an end to capital punishment.
Today, on Criminal Justice Sunday, join with fellow Presbyterians and others of all faiths in seeking to raise awareness about our outdated, punitive and costly criminal justice system, so that those sitting in darkness behind tall walls and barbed wire may experience hope.
Hans Hallundbaek, DMin, Coordinator, Prison Partnership Program, Hudson River Presbytery,
UN NGO Representative for the International Prison Chaplains Association and Citizens United for the Return of Errants
Today’s Focus: Criminal Justice Sunday
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Tim Clark, FDN
Anita Clemons, FDN
Let us pray:
We pray for the criminal justice system; for the victims of crime and their families, that they find healing; for the offenders, that they find redemption, and for law enforcement, court systems and correctional facilities.
We pray also for solutions to the root causes of crime in communities:
poverty, discrimination, and segregation.
May we learn to be slow in judgement, and to truly love our neighbor, especially those waylaid onto a wrongful path. We pray this in the name of the best-known Convict of all time, Jesus Christ.
Revised Common Lectionary Readings for Sunday, January 21, 2018, the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)
First Reading Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Second Reading 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Gospel Mark 1:14-20