2017 Good Friday Homily: Jesus’ Execution, Respect Life and Anti-Death Penalty

Execution Chamber Florida1
Fr. Chris Ponnet, St Camillus Center
Pax Christi Los Angeles, Catholics against the Death Penalty, Death Penalty Focus
stcamilluscenter.org Paxchristisocal.org deathpenalty.org catholicsmobilizing.org

Today we will use the biblical words of one to be executed: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

As we walk the way of the cross in 2017 and participate in the reading of the Passion of Jesus Christ, Good Friday 2017 commemorates the execution of Jesus while we in the United States stand at an important junction in history. We have just gone thru a November election where many Christians/Catholics joined others in voting for the death penalty against the Churches positions in several states and, beginning Easter Monday, Arkansas will execute 7 persons in 10 days.

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
We walk with Jesus in our own time as Jesus walked to his execution with Simon of Cyrene and Veronica. Who are the Simons of Cyrene and Veronicas of our day? Are they the children of Syria, the persons on death rows, the women/children of Africa living with HIV in need of medicine? Who are the people in our local parish that Jesus accompanies: a recent widow, an unemployed laborer, an undocumented vendor outside the church and parent of three kids in our school, a family with a young person incarcerated?

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus comes to his execution after remaining silent before religious and government leaders or speaking about truth. This Good Friday, we are all faced with the question of Pilate to Jesus: “What is truth?” We live in a time of “alternative truth” and having to fact check everything reported. Jesus told us that the “Truth will set you free.” We live in a time of human trafficking and climate change—truth or fiction? We live in a time where the Gospel of Mercy is under attack by those outside and inside the church, in the face of domestic violence, refugees from Syria, shootings in our schools and terrorist actions that kill and injure outside the historical norms of war?

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Pope John Paul II said in 1999: “I renew the appeal…to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary.” Pope Benedict said in 2011: we need to be committed to “the need to make every effort to eliminate the death penalty and to reform the penal system.” And Pope Francis in his address to the US congress: “The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage…to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. “

Good Friday is the Christian day to stand with Jesus the executed one and against the death penalty. We stand with all victims of violence and continue the long tradition of being with persons in their time of crisis. Good Friday is a day of Solidarity, a day where we stand at the food of the Cross of Jesus and we stand with the victims and all the incarcerated including those on death row. Jesus, as we approach Easter, may our acts of nonviolence, our acts of kindness, our acts of mercy change us personally, our parish, our nation and our world.

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”