In my work to end the death penalty I often hear that those who are executed “get what they deserve.” Many people don’t realize that the death penalty does not serve as a deterrent to crime and is a gross miscalculation of justice. The death penalty disproportionately affects people of color, those living in poverty, and individuals with intellectual disability and severe mental illness.
In the Gospel reading for the first Monday of Lent, the scripture invites us to recognize Christ in those most often forgotten in our society: “whatever you do for the least of these sisters and brothers of mine, you did for me,” (Mt. 25: 40). This message is one frequently quoted from the pulpit, but how often do we take these words into consideration when confronted with the daily realities of our broken world?
As people of faith, we are called to love fiercely. When we forget to look for Christ in our fellow brothers and sisters, it becomes easier to ignore the humanity in one another. We fully embrace Christ when we love the people whom society would rather have us condemn and judge without mercy. The humanity we seek to find within ourselves can only be found when we search for the humanity in others.
Our hearts are meant to be broken for the sake of one another. When we remember that how we treat the most marginalized in society is a reflection of our love for Christ, we will be ignited to embrace this challenge to love when it would be easier to hate.
Three states—Alabama, Florida, and Texas—will carry out executions February 22nd. As we prepare for Easter this Lenten season, let us remember the people who will be executed during this holy time: Thomas Whitaker, Doyle Lee Hamm, and Eric Branch. May we seek opportunities to find Christ and cherish one another’s human dignity in our brothers and sisters instead of guarding our hearts with hate or indifference.
Emma Tacke is the Associate Director of Community Engagement for Catholic Mobilizing Network to End the Use of the Death Penalty. Before joining CMN, Emma was a 2016-17 Grassroots Mobilization Associate for NETWORK Lobby where she worked for social and economic justice through grassroots outreach. During her time at NETWORK, Emma had the opportunity to be an emcee for the 2017 Ecumenical Advocacy Days. Emma earned her bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Gender Studies from the College of Saint Benedict. Emma served with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Seattle, WA and was an emcee at the 2017 Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice.