jesus wept

BY MARCOS GONZALES | March 29, 2020
Fifth Sunday of Lent
Today’s Readings | Reflexión en Español

A crowd gathered outside the walls of the juvenile detention center early in the morning, the sky beginning to turn from the darkness of night to the light blue of day. This detention center sits on the periphery of Los Angeles County, symbolic of the margins that folks involved in our criminal justice system are relegated to. This morning, we were gathering for an Easter sunrise service. The group gathered was composed, largely, of parents of the children locked up inside. Also in the crowd were a few parents whose children had been killed by gang violence. The tears began, almost immediately, when the Mass did. The tears of mothers who had lost their children, to violence and to the sentencing of their children to life without the possibility of parole. I witnessed in the tears of those mothers that day the same anguish that Mary confronted Jesus with. I can only imagine the mothers in the crowd exclaiming, “Lord if only you would have been here” my son would still be here. A desperate plea of finding oneself, one’s family, broken by systems of mass incarceration, of the school to prison pipeline, of the systems of inequity that push people to the margins. 

jesus wept, mass incarceration

In today’s Gospel, Jesus travels to stand in the place of death, to remind us that death does not have the final word, “that you may believe.” He goes to be with those broken by loss and lets his tears join with theirs. Jesus wept…for love of his friend, Jesus wept. In the many times that I would return to be with the young men locked up inside the walls of that juvenile detention center, I would be moved to tears by the pain and sadness of seeing society throwing young people away to life in prison. I find myself perturbed and deeply troubled by a society that can stand silently watching an entire community be decimated by the system of mass incarceration. Pope Francis said that “sometimes in our lives, tears are the lenses we need to see Jesus.” It was in the tears of the mothers outside those walls that I saw Jesus weeping for the loss of the children. In the tears of the youth locked up that I saw Jesus desperately desiring our liberation. And we know that death does not have the final word. We carry with us the radical hope that the dead will rise, and the systems of injustice will be no more.

Am I perturbed and troubled by the system of mass incarceration, by the school to prison pipeline channeling young people of color into this system?
How will I show up for the Marys and Marthas around me, crying for the loss of their brothers, their fathers, their children?
How does the kinship that connects us call me to respond?

8 replies
  1. Avatar
    Rev Bryan Leone says:

    In the sermon on the plain Jesus warns those who are rich, “Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation” unfortunately in America we have two legal systems—-one for the rich and one for the poor. The rich can afford expensive lawyers who can get them acquitted of almost any crime; while the poor have to settle for public defenders who do not have the judicial skills of their richer colleagues.

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  2. Avatar
    Ann South says:

    Today’s message admonishes me for my cluelessness and neglect toward helping these kids find different directions and choices. Our society too quickly uses the school to prison solution and we let it happen. Thank heaven for Homeboys and other groups helping these kids. My heart aches for the mothers.

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  3. Avatar
    Elaine says:

    Marcos, your message in this 5th Sunday of Lent, Radical of Hope, was felt in mind, heart and soul so very deeply by me as you describe the parents, families, and others who gathered at that Easter Sunrise Mass you mention. I could almost place myself there with all. When you describe how you felt when you would return to”be with the young men and be moved to tears by the pain and sadness of seeing society throwing young people away…” I felt moved also for you and for them and their families.

    You present the situation so well for one to feel the wrong that is done to others and especially in this youth detention center. Jesus wept.

    What threw me off in a different direction was your first question in the three questions you give at the end. It confuses me to no end to know how these young people are treated and then to have the term “of color” imposed at the end in your first question. Maybe all you saw was young people “of color” at this detention center but this total disrespect of life in putting young lives in these detention centers or killing them on the streets begins in the womb when people decide to abort these precious lives and society encourages it with supporting abortion. The mothers of those in the detention systems gave them their lives but preceding that is that society does not have an appreciation of all life and somehow that attitude is thrust on people before they are born and then after that with the sort of thing you describe by easily placing them in detention centers. Every life- made in the image and likeness of God-is precious. What I have thought is that why, when being brought to tears by the disregard of life in detention centers etc-why don’t people go after the origin of disrespect that exists in the advocacy of abortion at Planned Parenthood? Look up the life of Margaret Sanger who began the idea of Planned Parenthood and put an abundance of abortion facilities in the neighborhoods of “people of color” for the purpose of eugenics that she believed in. “People of color” are abandoning “people of color” when they fail to support their own lives in the womb. Other nationalities go right along with and partake in the advocacy of abortion but if you look at the origin of Planned Parenthood and its success you will see how it appears that “people of color” have been tricked into treating themselves with disrespect and of little/no value. Jesus wept.

    It is by no means just “people of color” who end up in detention centers etc. We fail our youth and thus Our Lord when we give bad mentorship. Jesus wept.

    Perhaps we can extend this a bit further to hear Jesus call out to us using our name in place of “Lazarus.” ” _________ come out!!!!!” Come out everyone and call for an end to abortion which gives no dignity to life-all life-made in the image and likeness of God. Call out for an end to abortion and Planned Parenthood where, if any good is done for women it can be done in places and institutions where abortions are not allowed. And, now, people who want us to believe that they are capable of leading our government, our people, also vote to approve of abortion! Jesus wept.

    And to switch off to another:
    Marcos, I am so appreciative that you addressed the sunrise service capitalizing the Sacrifice of the Mass with a capital “M.” Elsewhere you speak of mass incarceration. It is so offensive to see others, even priests, speak of the Sacrifice of the mass-no respect and honor there of Our Lord. There is a huge difference and reference. To me “mass” is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells, nothing to do with the Eucharist. We are privileged to be able to attend Mass and be in the presence of the author of life. This is really felt these days when we can’t go to Mass in person and receive Jesus in the Eucharist because of Covid19. Do the young people in the detention centers have help with knowing and understanding who Jesus is in their lives? Are they mentored about their relationship with Our Lord? I hope so. Blessed are the poor in spirit.

    Recently I saw a yard sign that read “Vote Pro-Life—-Like your mother did.” Hmmmmm much to think about.
    Thanks again, Marcos.

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  4. Avatar
    Pat Layden says:

    Mass incarceration of women men and children breaks my heart! My husband and I go into jail to do a church service when we can, but now in lockdown we can’t even go there. We have friends who have been incarcerated, and we have a cottage and a garage apartment that we rent to formally incarcerated People for a reasonable price. If there was more I could do I would do it. I hope somehow this wholesale lock down for the COVID-19 virus may open our eyes a bit more to those in our midst that are at risk.

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  5. Avatar
    Marjorie Larney says:

    Your reflection. Marcos, is the most heart and soul stirring I’ve read on this site. More power to you and all who you seek to meet and help in your dedicated work of the spirit. Thank you.

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  6. Avatar
    Joseph Lynch says:

    As someone who has been a volunteer ministering to the incarcerated in prisons and local jails for almost 20 years, I totally understand the writer’s frustration. However, I believe he is misdirecting his thoughts on “improving the system”. While the juvenile justice system could certainly be improved, it is much more important to prevent youth from even winding up in this system. Society needs to address the root cause of individuals feeling that a life of gangs and crime is their only viable option.

    As a society we need more individuals working with the disenfranchised youth to show them that not only are they loved and valued as a human being but that there are other options and that IF they try they can actually be more successful in society and outside the gangs. We need to show these youth how to succeed!

    Quite frankly, we need to get more men of color to step up to the plate. Even when I have talked to pastors of color about programs where men of color are desperately needed, I receive great lip service BUT no action.
    Joe Lynch

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