Sunday, March 15, 2015

Father Gordon MacRae, the Sorrowful Mysteries and the Big Picture

Father Gordon MacRae has been a prisoner in the New Hampshire State Prison for Men for over 20 years, based on false accusations of sexual abuse that netted his accuser over $200,000, while sentencing an innocent Catholic priest to up to 67 years in prison.

When a person is baptized, that person is baptized into the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  In the Catholic Church, we usually baptize infants, and the sprinkling of some water on their head three times is symbolic of what actually transpires.  What is missed usually, and can be so for their entire lifetime is that this now baptized Christian has been immersed into the ocean of the mercy of Jesus Christ, and into the significance of Jesus Death and Resurrection in the life of the baptized.

When we speak of people here on planet Earth having a big picture view of things, we usually mean someone who takes a longer view on things happening in the here and now, someone who does not get bogged down in the individual weeds.  But, God too has a big picture view of things.  It is just that His big picture is a view of every moment of your life and all those you come in contact with directly or indirectly, and how each moment of your life impacts on your eternal salvation.  Our big picture view ignores most of what goes on in our world, because we could not possibly grasp it or process it if we did try to incorporate it into our view.  God is not bound by our human frailty, even though Jesus took it upon Himself.

So, God has a big picture view of Father Gordon MacRae, and how his life intersects those of others, and how it fits into His plan of salvation for Father Gordon and for others who cross his path, physically and electronically through the writings of These Stone Walls.

This week, Ryan MacDonald, an outspoken critic of the injustice that has kept Father Gordon imprisoned, prepares us for the Federal Court Date coming up on March 17, where lawyers for Father Gordon will make presentation regarding the habeus corpus appeal that they registered with the courts on Father Gordon's behalf some time ago.  His article on These Stone Walls is here.

I have followed These Stone Walls for several years, and have often written here at Freedom Through Truth about Father Gordon, his compatriot Pornchai Moontri, and others who make their home at the New Hampshire State Prison for Men.  Following Father Gordon has opened my eyes considerably, particularly to the lot of those imprisoned for crimes they did or did not commit.  I realize that these are our brothers and sisters, and though they may have committed serious crimes, often our treatment of them is not consistent with the Gospel, particularly as Jesus instructs us to draw along side them.

But, these last few days, the latest writing by Ryan MacDonald, along with the body of work that is on These Stone Walls struck me differently, as you can imagine from the title of this article.

It struck me that Father Gordon has entered into the Passion and Death of Our Lord and Saviour, and is on his own journey to Calvary to meet Him.  God has so loved Father Gordon that he has allowed him to enter into his own version of Jesus Passion and Death.

Let us take a brief look at the Sorrowful Mysteries and see how Jesus Way of the Cross is being played out in Father Gordon's life.

In the First Sorrowful Mystery, Jesus is separated from his disciples, by His choice, mind you, and goes off on His own to pray, and to agonize over the path he has chosen to follow.

Father Gordon was drawn into a web of deceit and lies about him, and was separated from his fellow priests, and cast adrift by his bishop.

When Jesus was scourged in the Second Mystery, it was for the lies told by others about Him, but He also knew that this was part of His Way of the Cross for all of the sins of all those who would ever live on earth.

Father Gordon was scourged by a court of law, as he had to sit through lies presented to the court as facts, and believed by the court.  Where Jesus was scourged physically, and left bleeding and with skin stripped from his frame, Father Gordon was figuratively beaten by stories that were incongruous, and yet were believed about him.

Jesus was crowned with thorns in the Third Mystery, to indicate how the mighty had fallen.  His kingship was denied, and mocked by those who had no understanding of who He was.  He the King of Kings and Lord of Lords was mocked by His own creation.

Father Gordon received a crown of thorns figuratively when a guilty verdict on no meaningful evidence was rendered in his case, and he was sentenced to up to 67 years in prison, effectively a death sentence. As the Christ was humiliated, so too was His alter christus, Father Gordon.

Jesus carried the cross on which He would die to Calvary in the Fourth Mystery.  Along the way, he was aided by Simon the Cyrene, who was pressed into service.

Father Gordon has carried the cross of his guilty verdict into life in prison for over 20 years.  But, God has sent him men like Pornchai and others to assist him to carry the cross he has to bear.

In the Fifth Mystery, Christ dies on the Cross for our sins.

In the Fifth Mystery in the Life of Father Gordon, he has had to die to himself.  It is appropriate that he should wish to have an appeal launched on his behalf, though his own participation in it is limited. Though his appeal would appear to be in the hands of men, it is in fact in the hands of God, and the verdict that is ultimately rendered will be what God wishes it to be.

Jesus placed Himself into His Father's Hands, and so suffered death on the cross for that giving of His free will to the Father.  But, He was resurrected on the third day, and is with the Father in the glory of heaven, to which He calls all of us.

And in the Father's plan of salvation for Father Gordon and for all who follow him, He has allowed Father Gordon to more closely mirror the Way of the Cross in his daily life, so that witness of his faithfulness will shine forth for us to see.

We who are removed by 2 millenia from the actual Way of the Cross, though we celebrate it every time we participate in the mass, have the Way of the Cross of Father Gordon to remind us that greater love has no man that he would lay down his life for his brothers and sisters.

That is what Father Gordon's life in prison is a reminder of.

Saint Teresa of Avila once allegedly said to the Lord: "If this is how you treat your friends, it is no wonder you have so few."

Father Gordon does not deserve to have spent more than 20 years imprisoned for sins he did not commit, but Jesus did not deserve to die either.  Jesus freely chose to enter into His Passion and Death to set us free.  Father Gordon may not have initially chosen this path, but he has been faithful to it, and that is about as much as we frail human beings can do.

Please remember Father Gordon in your prayers as the legal team in charge of his habeus corpus appeal present on his behalf on March 17.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Transfiguration, You and Me

Transfiguration is by definition "a complete change of form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state."

Father Gordon MacRae, a spiritual adviser, if not director, for many, through the wonders of the internet, a medium that he has never had direct access to, reminds us of transfiguration once again this Lent in his latest posting "A Transfiguration Before Our Very Eyes" over at These Stone Walls.

After the Feast of the Transfiguration last summer, I wrote a post that Father Gordon links today entitled Transfiguration Behind These Stone Walls.  I think my posting of last summer provides an interesting backdrop to the further Transfiguration that is transpiring in the hearts and minds of Father Gordon, Pornchai and prisoner residents of the New Hampshire State Prison for Men.

In it I said:
In fact, we are all called to change our form or appearance, to be conformed to Christ in us.  Where Christ in His Transfiguration was actually changed and it was visibly obvious to the three disciples present, our transfiguration is more like a very slow metamorphosis and as that, might not be as obvious to those around us, as that of Christ was.
When Christ was transfigured in front of his 3 disciples, and Elijah and Moses appeared, this was a special, once in forever, miracle of God's Grace showing favor not just to his Beloved Son, but also to those who witnessed it, and also to all those who have ever read of it in their bible, or heard the story told at Mass.

Father Gordon describes for us a prison style transfiguration, that he has witnessed, in the care that Pornchai Moontri, his room mate and fellow pilgrim, has given to their friend Anthony Begin.

Father Gordon is often the scribe for us, describing life transforming events that occur behind These Stone Walls.  But, imagine the exhilaration that the writers of the Gospels might have felt as they relayed the story of the Transfiguration, or any of the other miracles that occurred in the life of Jesus. It is one thing for us to read a story from the Bible, but it is another matter to witness it, and/or to write it down as told to you by the participants.

Though Father Gordon writes of Pornchai ministering to Anthony, let us not for one moment think that Pornchai and his love for Anthony, and Anthony, who in love has had to receive the ministrations of his friend Pornchai, are operating in isolation, or that Father Gordon is merely a fly on the wall, observing.

Father Gordon has washed both of these men and their feet, figuratively at least, in his prayers and tears, which have flooded the Mercy Seat of Christ.  He is after all, alter christus for them, a Catholic priest, living out his ordination in the place and time in which he finds himself.

In the original Transfiguration story, we are told that Jesus clothes became dazzling white, and that his divinity shone through.  But, we were not there, and so we have to imagine something that is by its nature unimaginable.

But, Our God knows all this.  Who can tell Him anything that he does not know already, and who can counsel Him?

So, he placed his priest Father Gordon in the midst of a transfiguration, a miracle both profound in its scope and exhilarating in its visibility.  However, for you and me, as for those who have read the Gospel Transfiguration story, we must take it on faith.

Those who read These Stone Walls have come to trust Father Gordon and his stories and parables as he relates them to us in his inimitable style.  In fact, his writings and our readings have led us to a deeper faith, and so when we read that there was a transfiguration at the New Hampshire State Prison for Men, we can picture it, and enter into it alongside Anthony and Pornchai.

Anthony has been transfigured into a man who is ready to meet his Lord and Saviour personally, if that is God's will for him at this time.  Pornchai has been transfigured into a man whose love for His Saviour and the Mother of Our Saviour is palpable for us all, even if we do not get to see it first hand. And our Dear Father Gordon bears witness faithfully to all that transpires behind These Stone Walls, and is active both prayerfully and physically in his own journey of holiness and that of his fellow men there.

But, there is more, so much more.  If God so loves Anthony Begin that he would give him 3 months as a respite, still in a prison environment, where his body and soul could be ministered to by men the world has cast aside, and the evidence of the transfiguration is profound, then how could God not love you and me and be prepared to use us as mightily as He has used Pornchai in this story, and Father Gordon?

Maybe Anthony has already entered paradise, or maybe not yet.  But, imagine the celebration when he gets there, and imagine also the treasures that Pornchai and Father Gordon are building for themselves in heaven for having helped teach the caterpillar that is Anthony Begin to fly like a beautiful butterfly into the loving arms of Jesus.

God is not one to honor persons, but He does honor those who commit to doing His will on a daily basis.  Those He can call His own and trust with small things, will receive greater things from Him to use for His Glory and Majesty.

What a marvelous story.  Father Jim Williams, who was my pastor for many years in London Ontario was about 6'4" tall, and so was called Tiny by those who loved him.  But we was anything but tiny and he told us stories in his homilies that engaged us in our faith journey.  He would commence most homilies with the following statement that would immediately grab our attentions.  He would say: "I am going to tell you a story, and it is a true story."

Father Gordon has told us a story once again, and it is a true story.

Thank you Father Gordon, and Pronchai.  Thank you Anthony Begin for being faithful, and may God grant you rest in this world and eternally as it suits His great pleasure for you.