Can you advise on how we can be more life-affirming this Lent other than the usual fast and give up stuff?
Let’s consider Simon the Cyrene who was asked to pick up the cross of Jesus. You may wonder why this scene is traditionally included in the Stations of the Cross. There is a very important reason: sometimes we are asked to pick up the cross of someone else in some way and to be willing to help them. Of course, if you could have interviewed Simon of Cyrene at the time, I’m sure he wasn’t very happy about being drafted to pick up and carry the cross of Jesus. He was on his way home from work, so to speak, and the Roman soldiers grabbed him and enlisted him to do it, somewhat reluctantly no doubt.
I think that that particular scene is a very important thing to think about in a modern sense. Since 1973, more than 8700 people have been sentenced to death in the United States. I don’t know if you ever realized that there were that many people who were sentenced to death. Among those, 1500 have actually had their sentences carried out. They’ve been killed. That’s a horrific thing. God has said that killing under any circumstance is intrinsically evil. Yet, here in our country, which is supposed to be a model of liberty and a model of citizenship, we allow this to go on. We basically don’t want to pick up that cross. We'd rather it go away.
I’ll give you more fuel for thought here, because since that time, 182 people who were convicted and sentenced to death were subsequently exonerated and their convictions were reversed because they weren’t guilty. They weren’t guilty. Now, think about that. Not five or six out of 8700. One hundred eighty-two people were sentenced to death and subsequently released because they weren’t guilty. Imagine how many people must have been killed who weren’t guilty. Not that any person should be killed, but that makes it even more horrible. And we do nothing about it. Like Simon, we try to reject having to carry that cross. Guess what? We can’t reject it. We are responsible for it. As citizens of this country, we’re responsible. It’s not even a religious issue. It’s an issue of morality whether we kill people or not, especially people who could theoretically be innocent. It’s horrific.
God says, “Thou shalt not kill.” He doesn’t say, “Well, you can kill some people and not others.” So we need to take up our cross here. We need to do something about this by writing to our congressman or electing people who are going to stop it. Or, we need to petition the Church to become more involved in lobbying to stop this horrific practice of killing people. It does nothing except violate God’s law.
Let’s all take up this cross and let’s help to support actions and groups that lobby against capital punishment. There is no room in our society for this horrible evil.