[opening remarks] We stand at Christ’s altar united in the prayer for our Country. Today our thoughts and our hearts go to those of our brothers who are in prisons. We shall pray that all those who are not guilty will regain their freedom. We join our prayers to the calls of Polish bishops, calls for amnesty for our brothers.
Holy Mass for the Fatherland on February 27 1983 was celebrated by Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko who delivered the sermon.
[homily] The words of the prophet Isaiah, of which the Gospel reading have reminded us, have been fulfilled in the person of Jesus: “…He sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, freedom to prisoners, sight to the blind, freedom to the persecuted and to proclaim the grace of God” (Luke 4, 18-19).
The entire work of Jesus was intended to tell the people that they were created to be free, free as children of God. During all His time with us, Christ was helping people to understand the meaning and the value of human life, the meaning and the value of suffering. He diminished human suffering through physical and spiritual miracles. He made people conscious of the suffering and pain of others.
God created man free to such an extent that he can accept God or reject Him.
Love would not exist if we were forced to accept it.
So where does slavery in our world come from, what are prisons for?
There are prisons, which we do not see, many of them. There are prisons into which people are born, grow up and die. There are prisons of organizations and regimes. These prisons not only destroy bodies, they reach farther, they reach into the soul, they reach deep into true freedom. Man has also constructed prisons from brick and stone. Prisons surrounded by walls on barbed wires. And as God’s values have been destroyed by man, these prisons are sometimes necessary.
It is not good, however, when prison walls are used for enclosing those who only think differently, feel differently and consider their country’s wellbeing in a different light. As early as May 1968 we heard the Polish bishops:
(…) No one should be considered enemy because of his different convictions. Trying to prove that people are enemies solely because they consider the good of the nation differently, not only does nothing towards social morality, but deprives a nation of many noble forces and initiatives which otherwise could enrich its life in many areas…1
How timely are the words of these bishops today when, in our country, many of our sisters and brothers remain in prisons already condemned or awaiting their court hearings. They are there because, together with millions of their countrymen, they desired, and still desire, a different approach to our problems.
Holy Father John Paul II often called out this great prayer to Our Lady of Czestochowa:
(…) Mother, I beg You, that all whose freedom was unjustly taken away, be set free…2
Also, the bishops frequently expressed the wish that:
(…) Martial law ends as soon as possible, the detainees be set free, that those convicted for actions connected with martial law obtain amnesty… (2/14/1982).3
At the end of last year, in spite of the efforts of many bishops, detainees have been set free not because of the appeal of the bishops, but due to reorganizations. As two months have passed since this reform, it is difficult to understand why some of our interned brothers were arrested on Christmas Eve. Why did they have to wait in retention for over a year, only to find out that they are accused of deeds they did not do? Is it, perhaps, a symbolic act against “Solidarity”?
Christ is, in a special way, with those who suffer. He identifies Himself with them when He says: “I was in prison and you came to Me, I was hungry and you gave me to eat” (Mathew 25, 35-43).
Is not Christ also, in a special way, with those who, from behind the fence of prison on Rakowiecka Street, write to their sisters, wives or mothers:
(…) Do not worry because of me. Know that I am able to withstand anything, whatever is necessary. Please keep a steady faith in God’s Providence and always act like a real person, like a Pole. Show courage and strength of spirit and pray for the cause and for me to Our Lady of Czestochowa.4
These are the words of one “Solidarity” prisoner. Only those true to their ideals, true to their conscience, can think, feel and write this.
If there, behind the barbed wire of the prison, our brothers can pour into the hearts of their closest relatives the trust and belief in God, their loyalty to a just cause, how much more should we, who really have a chance, dedicate our strength and our hearts to the good of others.
Do we remember that these, our brothers, condemned for their actions by martial law, our brothers for whom the bishops appealed for amnesty a few weeks ago, were defending the honor of the workman? That they wanted to be true till the end to the ideals and dreams which millions have supported in 1980.
How very important for them is the realization that solidarity of human hearts continues. That their worries are our worries! Knowing that their families are surrounded by material and spiritual care, knowing that each and every day, at home, with our families, in our evening prayers we pray that those innocent who are in prisons, have strength, perseverance and freedom . Knowing that we pray, that we teach our children to pray for them and for our national, patriotic acts and ideals.
Satan will strengthen his kingdom on earth and in our country, the kingdom of lies, hate and fear if all of us do not become stronger every day with God and His grace. If we do not support, with care, heart and love our innocent brothers suffering in prisons and their worried families. There are places where prisoner families are being cared for and respected. There are others however, whose fear is greater than the feeling of any moral obligation. Let us remember Christ’s words: “whatsoever you do to the least of My brothers, that you do unto Me…” (Mathew 25, 40). The bishops are demanding amnesty and as we read in today’s news, for amnesty which would bring the liberation of those imprisoned for action against martial law. Amnesty, abolition, but not an act of grace. Because this must not be an act of taking the handcuffs off the wrist and putting them on the soul.
Women imprisoned in Fordon write:
“…we want freedom, but not at any price. Not the price of denying our ideals, not the price of disloyalty to ourselves and those who trusted us…”.
“Let us put Truth on the candlestick”, as the poem says. Let us put life in Truth first. If we are not willing to do that, our conscience will become mouldy. Words of Truth, life of Truth may cost us, sometimes it is a risk. But, as the Primate, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski said:
“…Only for the weeds one does not pay, For the grain of truth one must pay some- times…”.
Let us not sell our ideals for a bowl of cold porridge. Let us not sell our ideals for the price of our brothers. It depends on you, on all of us, on our concern for our innocent brothers in prisons, and on our daily life in Truth how soon the time will come when we shall, in solidarity, and with love, share our daily bread.
At the time when the Nation needs so much strength to regain and retain freedom, we ask God, to fill us with the power of His Spirit, to calm our hearts and increase our trust in victory of good against evil. To clear the foggy minds of our brothers. To awaken in the nation the spirit of true solidarity of human hearts. Let them beat in God’s rhythm with, the hearts which He loved so very much.
[closing remarks] We again ask that after Mass, you leave the church and return to your homes in great concentration and peace. Let us be brave.
1 Word of Episcopate of Poland “March Incidents” from 5/3/1968 in Polish Episcopate Pastoral Letters 1945–1974, Editions du Dialogue, Paris, p. 525.
2 Martial Law in Poland. Words of the Pope 1/20/1982, “L’OR” 1/1982.
3 Possibly the Report of the 183 Plenary Conference of the Episcopate of Poland February 25-27 1982. “L’OR” 2/1982.
4 A quote from a handwritten letter handed to fr. Jerzy Popieluszko.