I took this picture earlier this year in the chapel at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. My pastors group was meeting in Philly and we went for a tour around this old prison. We read of how the prison was created to be a place of penitence for those incarcerated there. There were many things done when it first opened that people thought would help bring about repentance and people coming out of the prison as new people. The history, unfortunately, is far different. The chapel was striking as there were murals painted by former prisoners there and there was a remarkable sense of peace in that room even in the midst of the eerieness of the rest of the prison.
Nouwen words this morning focus on our living as God’s children – reminded that we have the model of Jesus the Christ. Nouwen writes, “I know that I am called to live at the place of innocence – the place where Jesus chose to live. There he made his home and asks me to make mine. In that place I am loved and well held. There I do not have to be afraid. And there I can forgive and heal and make things new…”
As I read those words, I immediately thought of a child with her mother, of a baby held in the safe arms of his father. Reflecting on pictures, I went back to this chapel at Eastern State – in the midst of a place of oppression and darkness there was a glimpse of light and hope painted on the wall – the Christ with his earthly mother.