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mercy

 

 

 

As an employee of the Sisters of Providence, I have come to respect and embrace their charism of Love, Mercy and Justice. However, I have had a hard time understanding why they oppose the death penalty and care so much for those who have committed such horrible, unthinkable crimes against others. After all, they have to be hardened murderers to be on death row, right? So, why would the Sisters choose to have mercy on and even pray for those on death row?

Every month, the Sisters post the names of those awaiting execution that month, along with the date of the execution. I know they pray for these individuals and for the abolishment of the death penalty itself. I love Jesus and I hate injustice, but I could not understand why they would pray for these horrible criminals. I was talking to a co-worker one night and we were in agreement that these men and women deserved everything they got. We agreed that they should die the way their victims died. NO MERCY!

And then, very softly and with the gentlest whisper in my spirit, I felt Jesus speak to me. This has happened all within the last week or so. Within a day of my conversation with my co-worker, I heard that those inmates that were to be executed by lethal injection had had their executions stayed because the injections were said to be inhumane. My immediate reaction to this news was, “Who cares? They didn’t have any compassion for the ones they murdered.” I still did not understand why society should care about these inmates. How could the Sisters pray for these monsters? How could God have mercy on these inmates? What was wrong with them?

I started reading a book called, Mercy in the City: How to Feed the Hungry, Give Drink to the Thirsty, Visit the Imprisoned, and keep your day job…by Kerry Weber. In it, Kerry describes her visit to San Quinton and the conversations she has with a group of inmates who are participating in theology classes with the Catholic chaplain. In these conversations, the men express their sadness at being judged by their crimes and not for who they are now. They all agreed that they are not their crimes and that if God could save someone like Saint Paul, then maybe there is hope for them. As I read, I felt God asking me, “Who are you to play judge and jury? If I choose to have mercy on the sinner, that includes you too. It was MY decision to send MY Son as a sacrifice to pay for the sins of the ENTIRE human race, not just a chosen few. If they choose me, I will prepare a place for them with me in MY kingdom.”

The question soon became, what is wrong with me? For someone who claims to love Jesus, for someone who hates injustice, why do I have such a hardened spirit when it comes to these men and women who are living in spiritual darkness? If I can’t find mercy in my heart for those on death row, then do I really love Jesus as much as I say I do? That question stung.

I felt immediate remorse for my attitude and the words spoken by Jesus as he hung on the cross burn deeply in my heart, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

If my beloved Savior, Jesus, could forgive those killing him, even as He hung there wounded and bloody, how can I NOT follow his example and show mercy for those inmates on death row and otherwise. Maybe the Sisters have it right. They must since it seems God is answering their prayers.

I still struggle with this. I feel that I am betraying those that have lost their lives at the hands of these men and women. I have to remember that justice belongs to the Lord. It isn’t up to me.

I have decided that I will join the Sisters in their prayers of mercy and I will pray for those who are unfortunate enough to find themselves on the monthly list of executions. I will join the Sisters in their prayers for an end to the death penalty, thus allowing God to be God.

If you would like more information on the Sisters of Providence, visit their website at http://www.spsmw.org.

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