Reading with Jesús

Jesús doesn’t read well. I sit with him on a Tuesday afternoon as he slowly works his way though the week’s catechism lesson. When he comes to his namesake in the text, he always says “Christ” instead of Jesus. When I correct him, he stops and stares at the page. “I can’t believe I missed it again,” he says.

Jesús is a small and quiet man. He is kind and slow to anger. No one would guess that he was convicted of murder. Before his confirmation last Easter, Jesús worried that he “wasn’t ready.” As we read together one afternoon, he looked at me so directly that I was momentarily taken aback. “Can I ask you something?” he said. “Of course,” I answered. “Do you think I’m worthy enough to be confirmed?” “More than you know,” I replied.

Jesús is haunted by a terrible childhood. He and I have attended Bible study together long enough for me to know some of the wounds he bears. Like so many others here, he was abused and neglected by parents who must have been incapable of caring for themselves, much less their children. It is incomprehensible to him that his mother kept his brothers and sisters but abandoned him. He was shunted off to foster homes, where he suffered even worse abuse. He sometimes tries to express his pain, his sense of betrayal, but he can’t get it out. It’s too much. He shakes his head, drops his gaze, and retreats into silence, mumbling, “It’s not important.” Jesús never knew...

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About the Author

Philip Brasfield is the author of Deathman Pass Me By (Borgo Press, 1983). 2011 marks his thirty-fourth year in prison.