Goodness, it must be 6 years ago now when my brother and I drove from Philadelphia, PA to San Diego, CA. He is in the Navy and had just finished college and was being stationed in San Diego. We decided to drive since we were both going to be married the next year (not to each other, duh!) and we didn't know when we'd get to take such a road trip again (turns out he and his wife have done it a few times since then, moving from CA to SC, back to CA, now in CO-yes, there is no ocean in CO- he teaches Navy ROTC classes at UC Boulder, smartypants).
Anyway- it was 1999. We were trying to do a time zone a day and were in Terre Haute, IN the first night. We left on a Saturday, so naturally, it was Sunday in Terre Haute and we wanted to find a Mass before we continued the journey (We also first experienced the Bob Evans resturant chain in Terre Haute. I love that place.). We went to Mass at St. Margaret Mary Parish before hitting the road. The pastor was presiding and he informed the assembly that there was a new person in their parish. He reminded them that within the parish's boundaries was the federal prison and the new person was there. He had been baptized and Father said he was ministering to this person. He reminded the assembly of what Jesus taught us about forgiveness. The assembly was rapt. He then revealed the name of the inmate: Timothy McVeigh.
When we were all able to draw breath again, Father reminded us that whether we like him or not, and no matter how much we hate what he has done, and whether or not he wanted to be called Catholic, Timothy IS a Catholic because of his baptism. He asked us all to pray for his repentance and for God and the Courts to have mercy on him.
Well, we all know that Timothy did not repent and that the Courts in your name and mine put him to death. I saw that priest on TV again the day Mc Veigh was executed, standing next to Bud Welch, whose daughter was killed in the Murrah Building on that terrible day in Oklahoma City. And both of them were standing there on Good Morning America talking about the injustice of the death penalty.
Doesn't Jesus teach us in explicit terms how we must forgive? In the Lord's Prayer, we ask God to forgive us the way we forgive others. Doesn't God forgive us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation as long as our sorrow is sincere and as long as we truly want never to commit that sin again? Can we forgive each other so radically?
Can we also develop the courage to oppose the death penalty just as vehemently as we do abortion and euthanasia? We are charged to protect ALL life-innocent or guilty.
I was thinking about that priest today. Maybe if you know his name you can email me or post it here. Even though Mc Veigh was executed, the message is the same. There is probably someone who is going to be sentenced to death today. Pray for that person, for his/her repentance and for the family of his/her victim(s) and for the criminal's family as well.