By Matthew Woolford
According to Dr M Scott Peck: “I began The Road Less Traveled with the assertion that ‘life is difficult’. In Further Along the Road Less Traveled, I added that ‘life is complex’. Here, it can further be said that ‘there are no easy answers’” (The Road Less Traveled and Beyond).
While reading ‘Promptings from the master artist’ by Lara Pickford-Gordon (The Catholic News, Sunday, August 27), I uncovered many great, overarching themes. These included:
Love & Mercy – “Mohammed turned to God and embraced Jesus Christ. This decision transformed his life and he realised there was goodness within that he wanted to share.”
Suffering & Redemption – “The psychological and spiritual transformation seen in Ramiah convinced Alladin that ‘given the right stimulus, even the most deformed mind can in fact be reformed’.”
Change & Acceptance – “He had difficulty adjusting from ‘sentenced to death, then sentenced to life’ and sought religious counselling to make a connection with God.”
The article had an even greater effect, one that seemed to organically push me toward a deeper reflection on the life of Jesus Christ, the sufferings He endured long before The Cross and the supposed prison of His earthly existence.
The Inner Temple
Matthew 4:1–11 reads as follows: “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry.
The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” He said in reply, “It is written: ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.’”
Then the devil took him to the holy city and made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you’ and ‘with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’”
Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan! It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.’”
Then the devil left him and behold, angels came and ministered to him.”
I am not a criminologist by any stretch of the imagination but having watched Orange Is the New Black several times on Netflix, I have noticed that most, if not all of the characters portrayed, seem to be struggling with some manifestation of selfishness. This may be why sharing was such a rehabilitative step in Alladin Mohammed’s transformation.
To be clear, and fair, I am not suggesting in any way that prison is only for the selfish among us, else we may all be there all the time.
As written by Queen Mary University (of London) Professor William Wilson in his book Criminal Law, “The American Model Penal Code provides what is probably the nearest thing we have to an uncontroversial statement of the proper purposes of the criminal law, namely to:
I see much truth in this.
I am also not a theologian or biblical scholar by any stretch of the imagination, but the responses of Jesus seem to fulfil the Ten Commandments that God gave to Moses (Ex 20:1–7), especially the first three, which speak to man’s relationship with God.
He also seems to be intimating through the scriptural writer, and ultimately, The Holy Spirit, that should these three commandments be upheld, it shall be very difficult to break the other seven.
I see this conversation between Jesus and Satan as one of the high points of the New Testament and one of the greatest miracles He has ever performed. It was here, it seemed, He overcame the trauma of early childhood, the uncertainty of young adulthood and demonstrated the work that legitimate human transformation demands of all of us:
It was also here, it seemed, that Jesus developed the strength to be the ‘contradiction’ that Simeon (Lk 2:34) envisioned.
Liturgically, this event may be overshadowed by the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, but it also seems to clarify what the Sacrament of Baptism is: an invitation into a life that is difficult and complex, and one that has no easy answers.