The courtroom was packed. Lawyers, reporters, county commissioners and law enforcement officials crammed into the benches next to ex-offenders, recovering addicts, clergy, therapists, social workers, friends, relatives and children.
The occasion was not judicial hearing, but a graduation marking a client’s successful completion of the local drug court program, a rehabilitation process that takes the place of prison for drug offenders.
The demands of a drug court program are rigorous and not all participants succeed. But when they do, it is a victory for the entire community: families remain united, gainful employment continues and recidivism is reduced by 40%.
For the local officials in attendance, the graduation was a moving civic ceremony. For the families involved, it was a celebration of newfound hope. For this volunteer drug court chaplain, it was nothing less than a liturgy where justice and mercy embraced (Psalm 85:10).
Throughout his pontificate, Pope Francis has called us to practice solidarity, urging all followers of Christ to shoulder the sacrifices demanded by true and holy friendship. My involvement in drug court ministry has shown me the far-reaching promise at the heart of the Holy Father’s notion of “holy accompaniment,” a healing unction not only for individuals, but society itself.
What a sight! A courtroom packed with well-wishers instead of accusers. Surely, a vision of the Kingdom to come, when criminal proceedings give way to conversion and restoration takes root in true redemption.