An excerpt (my own translation) of Vous êtes la lumière du monde : Lettres à mes amis en prison. This book is epistolary (fictional letters to inmates I visited)…
Second and final letter to my reader friend
Today I had a chat with a young African bank robber whom I’ll call Willy. I gave Willy a Bible and suggested he begin by reading the Gospel of Mark, in order to get some idea of who this Jesus/Yeshua is that people have been talking about for two thousand years. Willy told me he already had ideas on the subject. As a child he was taken to church in his country. He loved the dancing, the singing, the poetry of the psalms. « Where’s the Song of Solomon ? » he asked, quivering with anticipation. I looked at the table of contents to find the right page. There it was, Song of Solomon. He started reading aloud immediately. Willy writes songs ; lyrics are something he knows about. (May I remind you that Willy was sent up for armed robbery ? Hard to believe ?) Suddenly he got up and pulled up the left side of his red T-shirt. « Look ! » he said. « It’s him ! »
On the left of Willy’s torso, in ink darker than his skin, the face of Christ was tatooed. It could have been an engraving by Gustave Doré. Tattoo artists are truly champions !
Willy wears on his skin, near his heart, the indelible icon of Christ. I would like to tell him that he also wears it in his heart, engraved by the the greatest of Tatoo Artists, who has stamped his hallmark there : his Image.
Morevoer I would like to tell him that it’s he who is the icon, just like me, just like his cellmate, who hasn’t yet caught on that insulting the corrections officers won’t do much to make his life easier. As a matter of fact, Willy told me that his cellmate cries like a baby, depending on the letters he gets. Whereas in the prison yard, he swaggers and plays tough.
In what way are we icons of the Son ? In that the Image imprinted, engraved with ink made of Light that neither time nor space can defy, establishes us as the heirs of divine hope…but what am I saying ? Does God hope ? I don’t think so, because in this world, God is hope, just as he is faith, comfort and joy.
To be more exact, these are his attributes, for who can say what God is ? We manfiest this hope each time that we forgive, each time that we serve our brothers humbly, each time that we love. We all, as his Image, are the Advent of Humanity, the Coming of the Kingdom. Our grandeur consists in letting the icon of Christ within us shine, so that the resemblance becomes clearer, begins to show, increases and spreads. Within the space of a relationship, the icon, when shared, gains in luminosity. Thank you for welcoming me and trusting me, Willy, you and your brothers. I hope in you, for I see and I know Who you are. I believe that you recognize me as well. Otherwise, how can I explain that, once my visits are over, I so often leave this penitentiary bearing, in my mind, armfuls of flowers ?