Reflection and Prayer for an Execution
Note: This is the reflection the Congregation offered on Sunday, July 12, during a prayer vigil for three men scheduled to be executed at the Terre Haute Federal Prison on July 13, 15 and 17, 2020. It was adapted from “A Prayer Vigil for an Execution,” published by the Catholic Mobilizing Network.
Forgiveness is a vital part of our faith; it is something we are called to do every day and something we ask of and receive unconditionally from God.
Forgiveness played a central role in Jesus’ ministry, and it is central as well to our call to discipleship. For the forgiveness that Jesus offered on the cross was not only for the penitent thief or for those who crucified him. We, too, are recipients of that forgiveness received from the cross, and that forgiveness can be understood as profoundly unique.
Jesus asked our all-loving God to “forgive them, for they know now what they do.” So tonight, we ask ourselves, “What is it that we “know not what (we) do?” What act is so important to our human nature, so inescapable, that Jesus must take the time to intercede for us from the cross?
What if, rather than seen as a pardon for our many acts of violence or wrongdoings, Jesus was forgiving us for those times when we do not have the strength to be people of forgiveness? In this act from the cross, Jesus can be seen as forgiving beyond the human capacity. What if our Provident God, in that moment, provided forgiveness for the unforgivable?
Victims of grave harm need healing and mercy. We must not gloss over tragedy and loss, violence and harm. Mourning and lament are journeys that all who experience violence must walk. Yet in forgiving us – all of us – on the cross, Jesus created space for those who seem beyond the task of forgiving and of being forgiven. This act allows us to feel without blame the fullness of our human emotion.* From the cross, from the point of death, Jesus creates for us a space to both feel and forgive. May we not forget this gift. May we find the space and the strength to feel our gravest wounds and yet live with mercy towards all human life.
From Prayer Vigil for an Execution
Catholic Mobilizing Network.
*Sonia David MDiv, “Luke 23:33-34” Lecture.
The Paulist Center’s Seven Last Words Ecumenical Service.
Boston, MA, April 14, 2017.