"It is sometimes difficult for us to grasp God’s ocean of mercy that sent us his only Son so that we may have eternal life."
What are you giving up this Lent?
I remember when I attended Catholic elementary school, my classmates and I would often announce to each other what each of us was giving up for Lent.
Chocolate, of course, was the most common sacrifice. Then Easter would come around and we would all stuff our faces with chocolate Easter eggs until our stomachs hurt.
I now know, of course, that our Lenten sacrifices are meant to be more than a temporary abstinence. They are to lead us into a true inner conversion of heart, what Pope Francis has called, "allow[ing] our hearts to beat once more in tune with the vibrant heart of Jesus.”
As I’ve advocated for an end to the use of the death penalty over the years, I have met some of the most amazing humans who exemplify what it means to have a heart in tune with Jesus’.
I have met mothers and fathers, grandmothers and daughters who have forgiven their loved ones’ murderers. And I don’t mean an abstract, detached forgiveness.
I mean people who have actively sought out and entered into profound, long-term relationships with the people whose actions caused unspeakable pain to their families:
A mother and father who regularly visit the young man who killed their daughter.
A mother and grandmother who reached out to the man who killed her daughter and grandson and went on to write a book with him about their journey to restoration.
A mother who actively petitioned the state attorney’s office to not seek a death sentence for her daughter’s killer.
And then there are the death row exonerees I’ve met who live in admirable gratitude for their lives every day, rather than live with bitterness towards a system that almost executed them even when they were innocent.
It is sometimes difficult for us to grasp God’s ocean of mercy that sent us his only Son so that we may have eternal life. But the remarkable mercy these wonderful people have shown teaches us that we, too, can extend extraordinary mercy to each other.
Starting this Ash Wednesday, throughout this Lent and beyond, may our hearts be transformed and beat more in tune with our Lord’s, extending mercy to everyone, withholding mercy from no one, in all things big and small.