the last image of the daywas of luis embracing his mothershe had not come to his sentencingwhere he received lifefor something he did not even do

todayluis shared about his after court visitwith his two year oldwho was running aroundbefore he received his death sentence

the first time he saw hershe did not even know himhad no idea who he wasand was afraid to be held by him

this visit was very differentshe played hide-and-seek with himthis was his second time seeing her

in two years and two monthshere was luisstill a kidplaying hide-and-seek with his little girlwhile shackled to his anklesshe is going to grow upvisiting her daddy in prison

angry at his momfor not making it to his sentenceat the after court visithe did not want to be with his mombut rather with his baby

so at the end of the retreatboth stayed behindand luis told his motherthat he forgave her for not showing up in court

she cried so hardletting luis knowthat she wantedhim to understandthat she could not comebecause she was having problems with his fatheras always

then she saidthat it was her faultthat he got arrested

they held each others’ handshe anointed her handsthen she anointed his hands

she stood up to givethe sign of peaceand they embraced

she weptand weptletting outdeep groans of sorrow

feeling all the painthe pain of a few weeks agowhen parents weep

with the senseless deaths of two innocent relatives gunned down in gang violenceand now listening to the wailingof a motherlosing her sonto die in prison

the weeping swept over us

i asked the three kidssentenced to lifewhat they were feelingwhen they returned to their cellswith the knowledge that they might spend the rest of their lives in prison

everyone thinks that middle school is the important timebut listening to these kidsi am convincedthat fifth gradeis the most important yearfor a kid growing upin the barrio

la vida locathe ever present three dotsla vida locafeels gooduntil the dayla vida locarolls you the diceand rather than a double sixyou see two blank dicethere is no numberyour vida locayour crazy lifehas ended

no more freedomfor the game is over for you

at the retreatseeing jonathan embracing his motheras she weptat the loss of her sonwho had just received lifewithout the possibility of parolewas heart breaking

listening to himspeak about how the motherof the victim forgave himfor what he didhe said it made him feel humanhe was not expecting to be forgiven

how important it is to feelyou are forgivenbecause when you go to prisonwith this lasting impressionof forgivenesswe are changed

we cannot remainat the foot of the crossrather our godinvites us to the gardenwhere we find a gardenerat first not recognizing himbut then looking hardrealizing that it is jesusthe one who you have seen dieon a crosstorturedan outcastby societylaughed atby the religious leaders

when you lookinto the eyes of this onewho was so painfully murderedwho was the beloved of godthen somehowthis experience of the beloved of godbroke into this retreat group this afternoonthese were oneswho had not been giventhe privileges of the rich and powerfulbut have been stepped uponby the powerful

but somehowgod was saying to those presentyou are my belovedno one elsewill be saying this to youthey will see you as a criminala murdereror as jonathan told me

jesus did not come for those who were healthybut for those who were sickfor those who had three dotswho had given their life to la vida loca

from the first moment of the retreati was brought into the deep mystery of godi did not need a book to understand thisi did not need someone to explain how this was connected to the paschal mystery

how easy we forget thisit is seductiveto feel comfortableto be in those placeswith safe institutional religionwhere everything is guaranteedby observing the rules the lawsand thenthere is the other sidewhere jesus decidesthat that is not wherehe feels his abba most presentbut his heart burns with love whenhe touches those who are impurewhen he walksspeaks with thosewho are looked upon as nothingnot the important ones

todaywas an experienceof what being close to god is aboutjesus really is a true visionarywho seesthose whomhis abba really loveswho really are the beloved of god

Jesuit Father Mike Kennedy is the executive director of Culver City-based Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative ( and co-chaplain at Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar.

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