God can use prison time to turn someone into the person He wants them to be, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone told a San Quentin audience during a special Christmas Mass.
“Christmas is a time to receive God’s gift of His Son while committing to give back more for Him,” the San Fran- cisco archbishop commented.
Cordileone compared the prison stays of Jesus and Paul to the incarcerated people at- tending. He said while in prison, “God has given us time to grow into what He wants us to be. Take advantage of it.”
Father George Williams, San Quentin’s Catholic chaplain, said, “This year’s celebration had a wonderful spirit that many outside parishes cannot emulate.”
Williams spent 26 years as a priest inside prisons during Christmas. He said the holiday Mass is usually conducted at midnight for Catholics. He gave thanks and appreciation for the archbishop’s assistance in the celebration and praised the work of his choir.
The Mass referred to the Bible’s book of Isaiah, chapter 9, verse one which states, “The people in darkness have seen a great light.”
Father Williams noted the chapel at Christmas was standing room only, which is a “good thing.”
After the Mass, choir member Michael Adams said, “What the light of Christ reveals to you about who you are in your life, and what you will do with this knowledge, will define you as a Christian.”
“In this time of war against the enemy, it is time for all Christians to unite,” added choir singer Adriele Jackson.
Lisa Strawn, who led the Transgender Remembrance Day at SQ in November, commented, “Without Father Williams’ inclusive policy, Remembrance Day for the transgender community does not work. Father Williams did not hesitate to support the community and we are grateful for him and his church’s support. He is a real person of God.”
Incarcerated choir member John Krueger added that Father Williams always includes Protestant Chaplain Mardi Jackson’s congregation next door “in our church’s prayer. We hope and pray our choir can unite with the tremendous Protestant Chapel Choir next year to carol.”
After the choir sang “O come, all ye faithful,” Archbishop Cordileone reminisced about Christmas with a story about commercialism of the holiday outside.
“This time of year is hectic outside. Sales at one store after Thanksgiving included a very low price for a DVD player. The price created a wait at the store before it opened, where long lines created a big rush for the discounted DVD player. A woman who was first to get it was trampled unconscious but still held on to the DVD player…What tenacity!” said the archbishop.
“Why can’t we be that tenacious about God?” he asked.
The archbishop said the Catholic Church believes Christmas is becoming more and more mate- rial. “The real meaning of Christmas is about God giving us our gift of His Son through the Virgin Mary,” he said. It took some 2,000 years to prepare the Jews, Israel and the 12 tribes, he added.
The archbishop referred to David’s victory over King Saul and King David’s affair with Bathsheba. He commented that the biblical stories show that even in times of strife, David never wavered from worshipping the God of Israel — he never committed idolatry.
The message noted Jesus came from the lineage of David to unite His kingdom.
He expressed his desire for all Christians to maintain a silence during prayer and devotion.
The archbishop then dis- cussed current goals of Christians everywhere. “What matters most is if we stay true to God. How do we show truth to GOD?”
His answer: “Walk like His Son; show no idolatry, no pride, no self-doubt in spirituality, no addiction to sins. Stay focused on God by attaining the silence of God through si- lent prayer.”
The gift of God’s son comes with responsibility, said the archbishop. “He wants this gift (of dedication) from us in return.”