At the Easter Vigil this year and every year, the service begins with a new fire being kindled. The church is dark, and this new light penetrates the darkness. The new light radiates from the Paschal candle. The deacon proceeds down the aisle singing ‘The light of Christ’, with the people responding ‘Thanks be to God.’ Acolytes spread the light from the Paschal candle to all the people; by the time the altar party reaches the sanctuary, the entire assembly is illuminated with candlelight.
In Isaiah 62, the prophet speaks of salvation as a “burning torch”:
For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, Until her vindication goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch. The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name which the mouth of the LORD will give. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
Our Lord is the Light of the World (John 8:12), and our salvation manifests this divine light — it is the bright burning torch of Isaiah. Just a s Jesus is a light to our dark world, so to is the work that God does in and through us, His Church, a light to a dark world.
The “new name” that Isaiah refers to that shines as bright as a burning torch — that name is “Christian.” For God to call us by that name is the miracle of faith — a miracle that brings light to a dark world.
In the Old Testament, we see God deliver these light-bringing and life-giving miracles over and over again. God frees his people from slavery in Egypt, bringing his chosen into a promised land where they are free to worship Him as he tells them to. In the book of Daniel, the light of th e fiery furnace is meant to kill Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, but instead they are saved from death . . . and when they come out, they don’t even smell like smoke.
In the New Testament the miracles continue and become more personal. In John’s Gospel, Jesus changes water into wine at the marriage in Cana, heals various mortal and spiritual ailments, and feeds thousands of people with just five loaves and two fish. While most who witness these miracles come to believe, just as many reject Jesus and plot his death. Some see the Light of Christ that these miracles represent; others are blinded by the light.
One foundation of Christian faith is that only the Light of Christ — the getting of a “new name” from God — can enact lasting (eternal) change. Our culture is full of many systems of change, but most of them require us to work on ourselves from the outside in.
The Light of Christ works from the inside out.
The core principle of PRO Mentors prison ministry is that a man’s only real and lasting hope of changing his life comes from faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and from being a part of the Church. All other methods of change may last a long time, or even a lifetime, but alas, they are still temporary.
Prisons and jails are dark places. The writer to the Hebrews encourages the church to “remember those who are in prison” (Hebrews 13.3). Christians have been taking the Light of Christ into these dark places for hundreds of years. PRO Mentors is no different. We aspire to illumine jails and prisons with the Light of Christ. But we do not stop there. Our vision is for the Light of Christ to lead the released prisoner from the gate of the jail all the way to the door of the Church.
This work is accomplished through the Holy Spirit, and the assignment of a PRO a volunteer mentor. The mentor begins the relationship while the PRO is still in custody, and continues to walk alongside the PRO until the PRO is part of a church community.
Mentors have the privilege of watching the Light of Christ penetrate the individual’s soul and see how his life changes as his beliefs and values are transformed by God. Many of our mentors relate testimony of how their own beliefs and values are challenged by their PRO.
You can participate in the PRO Mentors Ministry and help kindle the life-changing Light of Christ!
On Sunday, June 3rd, from 11:30 am – 2:00 pm in the Parish Hall support the PRO Mentors Ministry. Meet men who are following Christ after incarceration and the men who have mentored them. A complimentary lunch will be served by the Brotherhood of St. Andrew.Reserve a seat!
PRO Mentors is a men’s ministry and welcomes new mentor inquiries. Orientation and training is provided and conducted quarterly. To learn more contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was written by PRO Mentors founder and parishioner, Ben Conarroe and published in the Spring 2016 Messenger.