1990 Aug 12 – 19th Sun Ord Time (Prison Writings)
“Come!” Answered Jesus. So Peter Got Out of The Boat and Started Walking On Water To Jesus. Matt: 14: 29
While in transition from one jail to the next I’m without my lectionary and “Share the Word” commentary. I do remember this week’s Gospel text. We are continuing on in Chapter 14 of Matthew in the Church. These next few weeks our Gospel themes will focus on the formation of the Church. This week’s text is a great introduction.
Jesus has just finished feeding the multitude. He told his disciples to take the boat and cross the lake ahead of him. Then Jesus dismisses the crowd and spends the evenings by himself in prayer. I wonder how Jesus managed to disperse so large a crowd (5,000 men not counting women and children) by himself. Especially after he healed all their sicknesses and fed them till they were full. I would think leaving Jesus would be the last thing the crowd would do willingly. In John’s Gospel after Jesus fed the multitude they wanted to make him King. Jesus had to sneak off to be by himself.
Such concerns are misdirected. How Jesus healed the people, how he fed the multitude, how he dispersed the crowd or how he manages to walk on water as he soon will do in this weeks Gospel are the wrong questions to ask. What is important in there actions is their meaning. What do they tell us about our faith in Jesus? I’m glad to read that Jesus did get to spend some time alone in prayer. The feeding of the multitude pushed Jesus to reveal more of his true divine self. The time alone was his opportunity to regroup and get his inner bearings in prayer with his Father.
Late that night between 3 and 6 a.m. Jesus began to walk on the water towards the disciples in their boat. The disciples were fighting a terrible head wind. When they saw Jesus coming towards them, they were frightened. They thought he was a ghost. Jesus tells them to have “courage”. “It is I” he says, “Don’t be afraid!” Peter takes the initiative. He asked Jesus to order him to join him. Jesus complies “come” Peter gets out of the boat and starts walking on the water towards Jesus. Then something happens to Peter. He starts to sink. Peter cries out “Save me Lord!” Jesus reaches out and saves him. “What little Faith you have!” Jesus says, “Why did you doubt?” They get back in the boat. The wind dies down. The disciples exclaim, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Keep Your Eyes On The Prize:
This is an action packed story with lots of human drama. The disciples are struggling in their boat getting nowhere fast, heading into a strong wind. In the dead of night Jesus comes walking on the waters towards them. The disciples think they are seeing a ghost. Jesus tells them to have courage and assures them it is He. Peter jumps out of the boat to join Jesus. Once on the water in reach of Jesus, Peter starts to sink. Jesus saves him. They both get into the boat, the winds die down and the disciples exclaim Jesus is the Son of God. What is the meaning behind this story? What does it tell us about our faith in Jesus?
With this weeks Gospel we begin to focus on the development of the Church. The disciples in the boat can be said to represent the Church. The boat and the disciples are struggling in the storm. They are getting nowhere. What a great image for the Church in hard times, fighting the strong head winds of the world, getting nowhere fast.
The disciples in the boat are like the Church without the Lord, without its vision, without the courage to act. Now they see the Lord coming to them on the water, and they are frightened. Does Jesus expect them to take a risk and follow him on to the water? Even
though they are in the midst of the storm, the boat is the safest place to be. The frightened disciples are like the Institutional Church. Sometimes when change is needed and the courage to act is called for, the Institutional Church would rather play it safe, keep things as they are, despite the obvious need to change, the need to take risks. Jesus challenges the disciples. He tells them to have courage. Its no ghost, it is He. “Don’t be afraid,” he says.
Peter, the first among equals of the twelve, the Church’s first Pope proves worthy of his acclaim in this story. Unlike the other disciples Peter, rises to Jesus’ challenge and takes the necessary risk. With the faith that he has, Peter asks Jesus to call him forth to join him on the water. Out of the boat he goes and onto the water. It’s working! Peter is walking on water! Then something happens. He begins to doubt. The storm distracts Peter and he takes his eyes off Jesus. Its as if he stopped to think what he was actually doing. Human beings aren’t supposed to walk on water, especially in the midst of a storm. Peter lost his nerve he lost his courage. The little faith that he had was melting away. Within reach of Jesus, Peter begins to sink. He cries out, “Save me Lord!” Jesus reaches out and saves him “What little faith you have,” Jesus says, “Why did you doubt?”
Peter has enough faith to get him out of the boat and on to the water but not enough to get him to the Lord. Sometimes that’s all the Church really needs to get it started in the right direction, but once out of the boat we can’t be distracted. We can’t let doubt stop us. We’ve got to keep our eyes on the Lord, our eyes on the prize.
A Modern Day Peter:
Peter is to be commended for taking the risk to get out of the boat and onto the water. In our recent history we can point to another Pope who took the needed risk and got the Church to move out of the safety of the boat and in the right direction. Throughout the 20th Century the Church has been fighting the head winds of the modern world. By the 1960’s the Church was standing still, getting nowhere, even losing ground. Pope John the 28th was elected to be a care taking Pope. A Pope who would not take any risk. Pope John could have played it safe and lived up to the low expectations people had of him. Instead he chose to call together the 2nd Vatican Council. After the Counci1 the church has never been the same. Lead by the Holy Spirit, Pope John and his 2nd Vatican Council help update and modernize the church to meet the challenges of the modern world. Pope John the 23rd is a good example of a modern day Peter who had the courage to get out of the boat and onto the water.
Today We Are Out Of The Boat, But Are We Sinking?
In this century Pope John 23rd and the 2nd Vatican Council got us out of the boat and onto the water. But as we approach the 21st Century many believe the church is backing off and doubting the Spirit that lead us to the 2nd Vatican Council. Are we sinking in the water in reach of the Lord? Whatever condition we might see the Church in today everyone who loves the church and in the name of the church can cry out to the Lord, “Save us Lord!” The Church is in need of God’s saving touch always and at any time. The key to remaining on course, above water and faithful to the Holy Spirit is to keep our eyes on Jesus no matter what is happening around us. This is true for the Church and individuals alike.
90 08 12 – Captain Williamson Makes Good On Threat:
Captain Williamson, the Warden of the Sarpy County Jail made good his threat to Ken Dudeck and had the Federal Government move me from his jail. Monday evening July 23, around 5:30 p.m. Officer McNolty came and got me from the laundry room. He told me the U.S. Marshals were on their way to pick me up. I had twenty minutes to get my stuff together and clear out. I went back to the Trustee Unit, collected my belongings, and said my good byes to the guys. I was taken to the booking area to await the Marshals. At 6:30 p.m. I was picked up by two Federal Marshals and driven by van to the Minnehaha County Jail in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
This was a disciplinary move. Captain Williamson was not pleased with the prospect of the Civil Liberties attorney investigating violations of inmate’s rights in his jail. This is not the first time the Captain has moved a prisoner who sought to secure his rights as an inmate. We had definite issues surrounding the mail, law library and clergy visiting regulations. We also had concerns with limited recreation opportunities (at the time I left both basketball hoops were still down.)
Aside from these particular concerns, there exists in the Sarpy County Sheriffs Department, from the top down, the feeling that they are going to run their jail the way they want. By design, by policies and by intent the system wants the inmates to know their punishment goes beyond their being locked up, beyond their loss of freedom. Those who run the jail see the jail experience and environment as part of the punishment. Any inmate who questions this attitude is subject to retaliation. I’m lucky. They just moved me.
The trip to Sioux Falls was pleasant. It was a cool night and. The sunset was beautiful the crops looked great. The two Marshals who moved me had transported me before. I shared the ride with another Federal prisoner who was headed for the Federal Prison Camp in Yankton, S.D. Yankton was our first stop. The camp is right in town, located at an old college campus. My fellow inmate traveler was returning to the camp. By his description and looks of the camp this Federal camp has all the characteristics of the typical Club Fed experience, a place to do easy time. My traveling partner told me there were many inmates at Yankton who were serving sentences of 6 months or less. As we left the camp the Marshals said they wished they were leaving me at Yankton, too, because the camp is so much better a place than Minnehaha. It’s just not in the cards. The powers that be in the Federal system want me to do hard time, this time through and so it goes.
Minnehaha County Jail
Each jail and prison has its own pluses and negatives. We arrived at the Minnehaha Jail just after 11 p.m. It’is located downtown within a complex of county government buildings. It was built in 1974. It is currently over crowded with over 220 inmates. I was allowed to keep three books, my office prayer book, a few stamped envelopes, my addresses and phone numbers, underwear and socks. All other books and three months of correspondence were sent back to Omaha with the marshals to be mailed home. I was issued a new set of prison clothes and brought to Unit C, a maximum-security mode. There are six other inmates in the mode. We each have an individual cell with iron bed, small desk, bookshelf, a combination steel sink and stool. An individual cell is a plus in an over crowded jail. There is a T.V. in the common room with seven channels. Also a VCR for each mode with videos available to rent two times a week. We are locked in our cells between midnight and 5 a.m. We have access to a phone. All calls are collect, even local calls. There is a shower just off the common room with no shower curtain. When it is in use, water spills into the room. It must be mopped up after every use. We can only shower before breakfast and after lifting weights. This is a negative.
We are taken to the dining room to eat in shifts of about 50. The food is the biggest negative. It is bad. The typical days meals begin with a breakfast of pre-poured cereal and two slices of toast, for lunch a bowl of weak soup and cold sandwich, and for supper some kind of casserole. Portions are small. We get all the candy bars and chips, sodas, cookies and beef- jerky. All of it is junk food none of it is healthy. It is my hope with the poor quality of food I’ll be able to lose some weight, this would be a plus.
Recreational possibilities are very limited. I’m not sure how my exercise routine will take shape. The limited shower access is a problem. We do get outdoors. There is a half a basketball court area outside and attached to the dining room on the 2nd floor. . It’s fenced in and we are allowed 10 to 15 minutes after supper. Overall, there is little recreation time.
People – Bp Bullock
90 08 12 – A Bishop Visits:
As soon as Bishop Bullock got word of my transfer, he called his good friend Bishop Dudley of the Sioux Falls Diocese and told him about me. Both Bishop Bullock and Bishop Dudley are originally from the St. Paul Diocese. Bishop Dudley called the Sheriff and was cleared to visit me. We had a good visit and Bishop Dudley will see that I can receive the Eucharist while I’m here. My good friend, Fr. Kayser is also a priest here and has visited me a couple of times. When I called Bishop Bullock to thank him for calling Bishop Dudley, Bishop Bullock laughed and reminded me that though I may have a hard time with the institutional church, sometimes its a good thing to have. I laughed and agreed. As far as I know, this is where I will be for the duration. Still, there are no guarantees. I have yet to get a final designation from the Federal Government. More next week.