WEST VALLEY CITY — Christmas came early to the Oxbow Jail, as Bishop Oscar A. Solis celebrated the liturgy of the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord for the inmates on Dec. 22.
The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City’s jail ministry has about a dozen members who regularly visit the jails and detention centers, where they offer Bible study, prayer and Eucharistic services. Mass is celebrated when a priest is available.
“This does amazing things for us,” said Scott Lutz, a Blessed Sacrament parishioner who has been doing the ministry for about 18 months. “It just makes us feel so good after we get in there and tell these inmates how much God loves them, and watch their faces light up.”
Ken Harris, another Blessed Sacrament parishioner who has been involved in the jail ministry for more than 10 years and who partners with Lutz, said the youthful offenders especially need to hear the Good News. “Most of them have no idea of who God is or what He is,” Harris said. “We’re there scattering seeds, and hopefully some fall on fertile ground. ... We don’t get here as often as we would like, and certainly not as often as they would like. We have a lot of them say, ‘I’ve been here for six months and I’ve never seen anyone from the Catholic Church.”
In his homily, Bishop Solis said life is full of surprises. For example, “when God promised to send his Son into the world, everyone was expecting something big and grand and yet, to the surprise of the world, everybody saw God in a different way. He became flesh, one like us, except for sin,” the bishop said.
Jesus came to save humankind from sin, Bishop Solis continued. “This is what Christmas means. Christmas means that God, high and mighty in the heavens, decided to send his Son – give his Son – for us in order to save us.”
Acknowledging that his listeners might have hurt other people or hurt themselves, the bishop reminded them that “God sent his Son, not only for us, but for all of you, because he loves you. He loves you and he forgives you your sins. ... No matter who you are, God came for you. Jesus was born you.”
Because they are his children, God looks at people differently than they look at each other, the bishop said. He urged his listeners to open their hearts to receive God.