When the Son of Man comes in his glory, with his angels around him, and separates the sheep from the goats in a great act of judgement, the criteria he will use, according to Matthew’s gospel at least, will be as follows:
I was hungry and you gave me food.
I was thirsty and you gave me drink.
I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me.
I was sick and you took care of me,
in prison and you visited me.
It’s an interesting checklist to prick our consciences every now and then. When did I last provide food for the hungry and help the poor? When did I donate clothes to a charity shop or homeless shelter? How welcoming am I at Mass, when we have visitors or parishioners I don’t know? Have I even remembered to pray for those who are sick in our parish this week?
The last criterion is a difficult one though. Not many of us have the opportunity to visit inmates in prison, even with HMP Whitemoor on our doorstep. The thought of entering a Category A prison might even fill us with dread.
This week, teams of Christians from all denominations will be going into Whitemoor to take part in the third Kairos Prison Mission.
It’s interesting that Whitemoor’s Governor and management team are keen to have Kairos back, and it’s because the previous missions have had such an impact on the prisoners involved.
Many of us have been baking cookies for the prisoners recently, struggling to get the regulations right about how big each cookie should be and how many chocolate chips it should contain. It sounds trivial, but past Kairos teams have explained just how much the bags of cookies can come to mean to prisoners.
The care and preparation is appreciated. The generosity of time given to their baking spills out into a generosity among the inmates and staff.
The cookies, of course, are just a sign – much like the prayer chains and placemat designs that other parishes have contributed. They are signs that Christians outside of the prison are willing to do something for the inmates.
They are signs that we care about people who find themselves locked up, despite their crimes. And these small ways of showing we care reflect the fact that God cares too. He hasn’t forgotten prisoners and he wants them to turn to him and know his love.
Not all of us have the chance to visit Whitemoor prison, nor would want to; but we can all pray this week for the success of Kairos 3.