Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Way of the Cross-2008: Station One

I was fortunate enough to discover the 20th Annual Walk for Justice while I was in Springfield Illinois. The group was inter-denominational. The Stations were landmarks in downtown Springfield that could connect current events to Jesus today. I will review each station one at a time.

Station One was outside of the Illinois Supreme Court Building.

Station One: Jesus is condemned to die.

We stand before the Illinois Supreme Court building, symbolically the last word on executions in the state. It is the U.S. Supreme court, which, in recent decisions, has limited the use of the death penalty by declaring it unconstitutional to execute persons with mental retardation and juveniles under the age of 18.

Currently the federal government and 35 states have statues authorizing the death penalty. As of January 23, 2006, there were 3,383 inmates on death row in the United States. Since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976, more than 1000 persons have been put to death. In that same time, 173 people have been released from death row in 25 states with evidence of their innocence. ….

At this time four countries account for almost all executions in our world. China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia are the top three. The United States is number four. …

We urge federal and state governments to seek alternatives to the death penalty that reflect intelligence, civility, compassion and justice. Restoration of society and healing of the victims, as well as to reform and rehabilitate the offenders, must be the goals of the criminal justice system….

Opposition to the death penalty must not be perceived as disregard for the victims of violent crimes and their families. Healing of their pain must be fostered through special love and compassion; it cannot come about by further suffering and death…

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ report, “A Good Friday Appeal to End the Death Penalty”, makes another appeal: “We cannot overcome crime by simply executing criminals, nor can we restore the lives of the innocent by ending the lives of those convicted of their murders. The death penalty offers the tragic illusion that we can defend life by taking life.”

Creator God, we thank you for your presence in our lives, for the love you bring to all your creation, for the forgiveness you bestow on us as a blessing. Let us honor your gift of forgiveness by forgiving those who trespass against us, even those who have committed violent crimes. Amen.

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