"Lord, come and save us." (Psalm 146)
In the responsorial psalm for this Third Sunday of Advent, the repeating refrain is “Lord, come and save us.”
Who might have cause to pray such a refrain? Surely, those who have experienced crime or violence have sought the Lord’s saving and healing grace. But undoubtedly, so too have many of those suffering under the weight of our broken criminal legal system — including the thousands of people sentenced to death in our nation today.
In fact, I feel certain "Lord, come and save us" is prayed often by those confined to death row, and their families. And today’s psalm reminds us that God hears their pleas.
There is assurance given in the psalm that our God is one who keeps faith forever, and promises to secure justice for the oppressed.
Sadly, too many people have come to equate justice with retribution, as in “an eye for an eye” mentality. However, true justice is the quality of being in right relationship.
What does it mean to be in “right relationship” with those who have committed deadly crimes? It is not, and can never be, the act of taking their life — this would be a violation of human dignity — but instead should mean keeping them from harming themselves or others.
This is the justice that God desires.
This Third Sunday of Advent is known as “Gaudete” which simply means, “Rejoice!” And so, we rejoice indeed with those whose lives have been spared from the death penalty, with states who no longer practice capital punishment, with all who practice the justice that God desires.
As we anticipate the birth of Christ in our world, may He birth anew in us a true understanding of justice — one that upholds an unconditional respect for life.