Father Michael Barrow

From the parish of St Francis of Assisi



Why do we have to punish people? Why do we put people in prison? One obvious reason is to deter people from committing crimes. If a person’s conscience does not stop him stealing, perhaps the threat of imprisonment will stop him. Another reason could be to help the criminal himself: prison life should be so constructed that when a man is released he is a better person than when he was sentenced.  


But too often our motive is one of revenge. "Let him get what he deserves!" or "Eventually he’ll walk free, but my daughter is still suffering from what he did."   There's something instinctive in us to want to hurt people who have done wrong.


I read recently of an army general, a wonderful man greatly respected by everyone, who secretly had an affair with a beautiful young married woman and she became pregnant.   To avoid scandal he arranged for her husband, who was a soldier serving abroad, to be sent home on leave, so that when the pregnancy was revealed it would be presumed that he had fathered the child when on leave.  But the fighting was so fierce that the young soldier felt he could not abandon his mates at that point and turned down the chance of going on leave.  Afraid of the possible scandal the general then arranged for him to be sent on a particularly dangerous mission and he was killed.  The general later married the young widow.

When the truth came out, what would your reaction be?  


The general was, of course, King David in the Bible – and his reaction when he heard such a story (not realising that it was about himself) was the same as ours, "The man who did this deserves to die, for doing such a thing and showing no compassion."      Revenge!  Make him pay!


If only we could learn from the response of God, who says:

Do I take pleasure in the death of the wicked, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?


Why do we want to punish people?



Let Your Feet Kiss the Ground1
Your Life is in a bag