Summary: We need a miracle to enter heaven.
A Miracle in Brooklyn!
It is a hot, steamy, July night in the Brooklyn Correctional Facility (BCF) in Brooklyn, New York. It is Thursday night in BCF and that means it is time for Catholic services. We are a group of laymen who come to BCF every Thursday night to run a prayer meeting for any inmates who come to the services. There are approximately 1500 inmates packed into BCF waiting for trial for every offense from illegal aliens to murder one. Life in BCF is not nice! The inmates are packed 75 to a 100 at a time into dormitories, where anything goes. Fights are routine, and you could lose your life for your sneakers or a place in line.
This night we are meeting in a small mess hall where cockroaches could be seen running along the walls even in the bright light. Our "podium" is four plastic milk carton holders turned upside down and stacked one upon the other. They are so sticky from spilled "bug juice", that I don’t like to touch them or lay my Bible on them. About 30 inmates show up for the meeting which is about average. They are a typical group, young, most of them in their twenties, and practically all of them in for some drug-related event. We begin the prayer meeting as we always do by binding satan and all his demons in the name of Jesus and casting them out of our presence. We lead the inmates in very simple songs like "This is the day" and "Praise the name of Jesus" and we lift our voices in loud praises to God. After a time of praise, a short Scriptural teaching or sharing will be given. At first, like every Thursday night, the inmates look on in disbelief. However, by the time the meeting is over in about an hour, they will be joining right in, a sure sign of God’s grace!
It is immediately obvious that something is bothering one of the inmates in the back of the room. He is moaning and wailing and is in a very agitated state. I decide to go back and see what I can do to help him. He is a young, skinny Colombian and he is speaking half English and half something else. After talking to him, I learn that he is extremely disturbed about being locked up and had tried to commit suicide a few days earlier by hanging himself with his belt. Nothing I say to him seems to help him at all; in fact, he isn’t even listening. He just keeps moaning, mostly incoherently. I call over a couple of my brothers and we take authority over that suicidal spirit in the name of Jesus and command it to leave this inmate now! We ask the Holy Spirit to come to the aid of this brother of ours and fill him with the love of Jesus. The whole episode takes about 30 seconds. The inmate calms down immediately and begins to listen to us. By the time the prayer meeting is over, you wouldn’t recognize this man as the same person who walked in. He is relaxed, peaceful, and asking for a Bible on the way out! Over the next few weeks that we saw this man, it was obvious that God was at work. He asked Jesus into his life and to baptize him in His Holy Spirit. The last time we saw him he was telling other inmates about Jesus and witnessing to the power of God in his life! He had received his miracle!
Jesus said: "I solemnly assure you no one can enter into God’s kingdom without being begotten of water and Spirit. Flesh begets flesh, Spirit begets spirit. Do not be surprised that I tell you, you must all be begotten from above." (John 3:5-7)
Jesus is saying we need a miracle to enter the kingdom of God. We cannot enter the kingdom of God on our own efforts. If we could, Jesus’ crucifixion and death on the cross was a tremendous waste of time. We can fall into a rut and live our lives as if it was true that God only helps those who help themselves and everything really depends on me and my efforts. But Christianity is more than keeping a set of rules in our own strength. It is more than a series of do’s and don’ts. Christianity is primarily miracles. Personal miracles. The first miracle is our new birth. As Catholics we believe that our new birth had it’s inception in the waters of the sacrament of Baptism. We believe that God at that point began the process of saving us from our sins. We believe that Baptism was the gateway to a life in the power of the Holy Spirit, a life lived on high with Christ Jesus. (cf Ph 3:14)