ROCKFORD—Following his morning Mass at the Cathedral of St. Peter, Bishop David Malloy again brought Easter Sunday Mass to Winnebago County Jail inmates along with a message of hope — and a couple of assignments for attendees.
“I know most of you have Bibles,” he said, encouraging the men to read during the coming Easter week all four Gospel accounts of the resurrection.
All the Gospels agree on the main event, the bishop said, but details vary somewhat between them.
“It seems they’re having a hard time to say what they saw,” he said, noting that back then there were “no pictures, no scientific evidence” to record the resurrection.
Our understanding of the resurrection comes from witnesses, Bishop Malloy said, explaining that the faith has been handed on and on, and “each of us is a link in that chain of witnesses.” He challenged the men to be a link in that chain, handing on the faith especially to their children.
The bishop also reflected on how Jesus’ resurrection differed from when He had raised Lazarus and a handful of others in the Gospels. They all eventually died again, he said, while Jesus was “not just a body come back to life ... He was not a ghost ... the witnesses tell us Jesus’ body was different.”
In his resurrected body, Jesus could enter locked rooms, eat with His disciples, and also was not always recognized right away, Bishop Malloy said. He quoted Pope Emeritus Benedict that Jesus was no longer recognized with the eyes, but in a deeper way with the heart.
Insisting that “God has made us for a particular purpose,” Bishop Malloy told the men to not waste their time in jail. “Christ calls you here just as much as He calls us on the outside,” he said, “but you have to respond.”
The bodies that are so much a part of us will be the ones to rise someday, he said, calling for respect of one’s own body and those of others. Maybe there are ways we haven’t respected our own or others’ bodies, he added, naming the use of drugs as one form of disrespect. But he expressed the hope for a better future.
“Now I begin again,” Bishop Malloy said, “and I have to respect the body again” to get ready for when Jesus returns.
He continued with the Mass, accompanied by Easter music provided by jail minister Laura Ortiz. Two of the guards, who were working an Easter shift of 6 a.m.-6 p.m., were invited to receive communion along with the Catholic inmates. Several non-Catholic inmates, some of whom have been regulars at the bishop’s Masses, also were invited at communion time to come forward for a blessing.
After Mass, Bishop Malloy visited one-on-one with each inmate. He then traveled through the jail’s hallways, elevator and rooms back to the entrance, winding up his fourth Easter visit to men who cannot come to church to celebrate the sacrament and the ongoing hope of Jesus’ resurrection.