After watching our country put people to death monthly over these last 20 years, I read the Passion narrative in a completely new light.
“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Ps 22:2) has become “My God, my God, why have we abandoned them?”
When Jesus was arrested and brought into custody, he was stripped, scourged, and spat upon. It reminds me of the numerous stories of false confessions given after threats, beatings, and deprivation of food, water, and sleep.
Jesus challenged the status quo of the religious authorities who produced false witnesses at one of his 3 religious trials (Mk 14: 55-60). We commonly execute people solely on the witness of jailhouse informants who have been offered leniency and use juries which exclude anyone opposed to the death penalty.
Jesus was crowned with thorns, mocked, blindfolded and struck with reeds (Mk 15:6-20). Most on death row are tortured by solitary confinement 23 hours a day, erratic, substandard food, and the terror of their imminent death.
The nailing of Jesus to a cross evokes the image of the convicted on the gurney, arms extended for IV placement. Failed executions are common because non-medical personnel frequently botch the job. No one knows whether the drugs used work as quickly and painlessly as intended because the compounded drugs used are veiled in secrecy laws.
The Passion is the ultimate picture of God’s solidarity with all of us as frail humans who are easily swayed from choosing life. Jesus always identified with the outcast, the sinners, and the disabled.
My God, my God, why have we abandoned them?
The Passion, as cruel as it was, is the foremost lesson in the unimaginable forgiveness and mercy of God. This Lent, God has been leading us towards wholeness in preparation for the joy of Easter.
As we prepare to begin this Holy Week, let’s take action to stop the practice of state-sanctioned executions. Join Catholic Mobilizing Network’s Mercy in Action Project and receive the tools you need to help stop upcoming executions.
Karen Clifton is the Executive Director of Catholic Mobilizing Network. She began her work against the death penalty in 1996 in Houston, Texas, when her social justice and advocacy projects intersected with those of Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ. In 2008, Karen spearheaded the formation of Catholic Mobilizing Network (CMN).
Headquartered in Washington, DC, CMN seeks to apply the Church’s teaching on the dignity of human life in the areas of capital punishment and restorative justice.
Karen has been an organizer and advocate since 1990. Her work has been associated with the Catholic Worker, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the San Jose Clinic, AIDS ministry and she is the DC Coordinator for the Ignatian Spirituality Project. Karen holds a Masters in Divinity from University of St. Thomas, St. Mary’s School of Theology, and has worked in spiritual direction since 1996, and is active in her parish in Washington, DC. She is the mother of five adult children and grandmother to seven grandchildren. Karen was awarded the 2011 Servitor Pacis Award by the Path to Peace Foundation, the Mission of the Vatican to the United Nations to promote peace.