Psalms 147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20
The death penalty is a topic of much discussion in the United States today. Many states, and now even the federal government, invoke the death penalty to punish those convicted of terrible crimes. A fierce debate rages about the morality of the death penalty. Many Americans are convinced that the death penalty is immoral. Others are just as convinced that the death penalty is justified. Today a number of Americans are on death row in prisons across the country. The rest of us will probably never be able to know exactly what it is like to be in that situation.
In today's gospel reading we hear Jesus predict his passion and death to his disciples. It seems to me that Jesus had something in common with persons on death row. Like them he was under a sentence of death; he knew from the beginning that he was going to die with great suffering. Like them he would die the death of a criminal. But unlike most persons on death row, Jesus was entirely innocent of the charges brought against him. Also unlike persons on death row, Jesus did not spend a long time awaiting death as a prisoner. He continued his work here on earth until his passion began.
Today we hear one of at least three predictions that Jesus made to his followers about his coming death. The response of the disciples to the words of Jesus was grief. Matthew tells us that they were overwhelmed with grief. The evangelists Mark and Luke tell us that the disciples really didn't understand what Jesus was saying. They seem to have missed completely the point of the last words of Jesus on this occasion, "and he will be raised up on the third day." We now understand that these words refer to the Resurrection. We know that the passion and death of Jesus cannot be separated from his resurrection. They all go together as part of God's wonderful plan for our salvation.
Perhaps it is true that we cannot know the feelings and the experiences
of a prisoner on death row. But through the gospels and our own prayers
we do seek to know as much as possible about the sufferings and death of
Jesus. He encourages us, and helps us to appreciate his sufferings.
In this endeavor we prepare to experience the great joy of the resurrection.
We also prepare for our own salvation which the sufferings and death of
Jesus made possible. Today as we hear once again the words of Jesus
predicting his death, let us pray for the wisdom and grace to know and
understand God's salvific plan. And may our prayers and God's grace
prepare us for our own salvation.
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