Thursday, October 21, 2004

Respect Life: Resources for Abolishing the Death Penalty

This weekend is the National Weekend of Faith in Action on the Death Penalty. Here are some resources for putting your faith into action on this issue of life for all people.

From the US Bishops’ office of Social Development and World Peace

From Amnesty International

From the Death Penalty Information Center

Intercessions for the End of the Death Penalty
For the victims of crime and for their families:
May they be comforted by your healing presence as they grieve.
We pray.

For the victims of capital punishment and for their families:
May the be comforted by your healing presence,
as they seek forgiveness and reconciliation,
We pray.

For all those who have committed violent acts
and for all those who are at risk of acting violently:
May they find the help they need to transform their lives.
We pray.

For all nations and local governments as we struggle with the issue of capital punishment:
May we be guided by God's word and the Holy Spirit.
We pray.

A Prayer to Abolish the Death Penalty by Sr. Helen Prejean
God of Compassion,
you let your rain fall on the just and unjust.
Expand our hearts
so that we may love as you love
even those among us
who have caused the greatest pain by taking life.
For there is in our land a great cry for vengeance
as we fill up death rows and kill the killers
in the name of justice, in the name of peace.
Jesus, our brother,
you suffered execution at the hands of the state
but you did not let hatred overcome you.
Help us to reach out to victims of violence
so that our enduring love may help them heal.
Holy Spirit of God,
you strengthen us in the struggle for justice.
Help us to work tirelessly
for the abolition of state-sanctioned death
and to renew our society in its very heart
so that violence will be no more.

Weekend of Faith in Action on the Death Penalty Sample Homily
by Reverend Mark Carson, San Jose State University Newman Center for October 22-24, 2004

  1. First, I have a question for you. If your daughter, son, mother or father were killed by someone, how would you react? What would you do about it? Think about this for a few seconds.
  2. Second, I have one more question. What would you do if your son, or father were on Death Row, San Quentin?
  3. In today's parable from the Gospel two men have different attitudes both on how they view God and how they view their fellow human beings. Both of their attitudes are shaped by experience.
  4. I would think that most people could have an answer for the first question. I have heard it said often enough, “That is why I am in favor of the death penalty because if my family member were hurt, I would pull the switch myself.” Like the Pharisee's experience, the everyday world seems very cut and dry, black or white, good or evil, clean or unclean.
  5. The invitation of the Gospel is to try to look at the world from a different perspective, from a different point of view. In the view of the tax collector the world is not cut and dry, good or evil, clean or unclean. The world is a very messed up place. The world is a world of shame, guilt and ultimately being humbled before God.
  6. Once we can break out of our experiences then the world seems more uncertain. There are very few people who want their father, brother, sister, or mother put to death. I think when it comes to our own family members we would try to exhaust every possible means to transform their lives. We do that out of love. There are so many family members who have love ones on Death Row who did not think in their wildest dreams that this would happen to them.
  7. In our Catholic Church, October is pro-life month. It is a month to celebrate life beyond any circumstances. More importantly it is a reminder of the invitation from God that all life is family life, it is part of our human family. Like the tax collector, we experience the human race, with all of its problems, violence, horrors and terrible crimes against our brothers and sisters but also by our brothers and sisters. We are faced with great problems of how to deal with consequences of horrible acts of brutality and violence. The Gospel reminds us that justification comes when we feel with different hearts outside of our own perspective.

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