When I saw the head part from the body, and each of them fall separately into a box with a thud, I understood–not in my mind, but with my whole being–that no rational doctrine of progress could justify that act, and that if every man now living in the world, and every man who had lived since the beginning of time, were to maintain, in the name of some theory or other, that this execution was indispensable, I should still know it was not indispensable: that it was wrong.

Leo Tolstoy–Leo Tolstoy, upon returning from France in 1857

Blood can not restore blood.

–Abraham Lincoln, after the Fort Pillow Massacre, when surrendering soldiers were slaughtered in cold blood

Nature Pushes Back

GamalielThe rabbi Gamaliel wisely counseled restraint, for the sake of discerning God’s will. Go gently. Let the Lord show His designs by how things unfold.

When I watched the news late Tuesday evening, a painful memory came flooding back into my mind.

Let me warn you now, we have to tackle come unpleasant facts today, to try to obey Gamaliel’s wise counsel.

One summer morning , back when I was still a layman, I was praying the Rosary in front of the Planned Parenthood abortuary at 16th and L Streets, N.W., Washington. A distraught young woman emerged from the building and began to talk to me about the ordeal in which she was involved.

This young lady had brought a friend for an abortion, and they botched it. The baby could not survive. But in the meantime her friend was in serious danger health-wise. They told the mother that she would have to go to a hospital and await an eventual stillbirth.

The young woman talking to me had suddenly come to realize: Abortion is something we are not meant to do. It is not swift and neat and simple. It is ugly and messy and unpredictable. The force of nature itself presses back at you.

Planned Parenthood 16th StI remembered that morning when I heard the news about the cruel “execution” that occurred Tuesday evening in Oklahoma. Granted, this man had committed a crime that deserved the severest punishment. But doesn’t this botched execution show us the same lesson that the young lady learned at 16th and L that morning—that this simply is not meant to be?

As the Bishop of Oklahoma City put it: “The execution of Clayton Lockett really highlights the brutality of the death penalty, and I hope it leads us to consider whether we should adopt a moratorium on the death penalty or even abolish it altogether.”

People try to defend abortion on all kinds of airy, theoretical grounds, like a woman’s “rights.” But when we confront what abortion actually involves, when we see how hard nature herself pushes back, we can’t help but see: God simply does not will this. We are obviously violating His will.

Same thing goes for lethal injection and all the other forms of the death penalty.

Courtroom Drama

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery.

They said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”

“Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

They went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him.

Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

She replied, “No one, sir.”

Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” (John 8:2-11)

Let’s step into this gospel passage. Let’s get into it ourselves, like a scene on a stage. Where do we fit into the scene? Let’s find ourselves in it. The Lord Jesus, the Pharisees, the adulteress, the bystanders…where are we?

Continue reading “Courtroom Drama”


The man is incredible:

Whoever wishes to come after me must take up his cross and follow me. –Mark 8:34

tombstone cross

This is what the Son of God said. He went to heaven after He rose from the dead, so we certainly want to follow Him.

But wait: Are we fools to want to follow Christ? To come after Him, we must take up our crosses. This is what He clearly says. We have to be clear on what He means.

The cross was the implement the Romans used to kill their worst criminals. The cross may mean many things to us, but when the Lord first used the term 2,000 years ago, the cross meant one thing: execution, the death penalty.

Among Christians, to speak of one’s crosses has become a metaphor for all kinds of difficulties. It is a good metaphor.

But: We cannot use the phrase as a metaphor if we do not first consider the literal meaning. We cannot forget what the cross essentially is. The cross is an instrument of one thing—death.

Continue reading “Death-Defying”