Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Turmoil Amidst the Celebration of Another Man's Death...
Arlene Howard, whose son George was a Port Authority Police Officer and rushed into one of the towers after it was hit by a plane, said, “Being a Christian, you’re not supposed to celebrate anybody’s death but in this one, I think we get a pardon.”
It might be so (since God is forgiving and understands the human experience) but that is the quandary for many Christians this week. I'll admit feeling a sense of satisfaction and excitement, when I heard the news that the most wanted man in the world was shot dead Sunday night. However, catching myself I thought, is this how I should be feeling? (And thus began my internal conflict)
While my initial reaction to the news may have been elation, there is a balance in contradiction, between rejoicing the death of a self-proclaimed killer, responsible for thousands of children left orphans, parents left mourning their children, and spouses left widowed, and the regret of the violent ending of a human life (although you may question bin Laden’s humanity). The dilemma tests our commitment to the words of our Lord, who taught us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Even unto death, Christ prayed for those who were crucifying Him, asking God the Father to forgive them.
It’s not easy to turn the other cheek, especially in the face of someone so vile and who was a menace to the world by promulgating evil and causing so much pain and hardship for so many.
I'll be honest, I have often prayed for Fidel Castro's repentance and conversion. He grew up attending a Catholic Jesuit school for goodness sake! Then again, Joseph Stalin once considered the priesthood before becoming the world's most cold-blooded killer, who is attributed with about 60 million deaths.
Even so, I never even considered praying for Osama bin Laden, albeit maybe the fact that he was Muslim, a faith that is very foreign to me, may have had something to do with it. Although, Muslims do believe in the same God of Abraham that Jews and Christians believe in, and if we as Christians believe in the Holy Trinity, we know that God, while Three Person, is One and therefore cannot be separated (but that's a theological discussion for another day).
In a written statement, after the announcement of bin Laden’s death, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lomabardi says, “In the face of a man’s death, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibilities of each person before God and before men, and hopes and works so that every event may be the occasion for the further growth of peace and not of hatred.”
Bin Laden definitely spewed and spread hatred instead of peace but is his killing a cause for cheer? Of course, that is easier for me to question since I'm not Arlene Howard or the spouse of a man beheaded on video by Al-Qaeda. (Did I mention I was conflicted?)
On Monday, the morning after the news broke and thousands of people spilled into Times Square, Ground Zero, and the White House, among other places around the nation, to demonstrate their delight and chanting "U.S.A!," the New York Daily News’ headline stated, “Rot in Hell.”
That doesn’t leave much room for last minute repentance (not that shoving his wife towards his executioners is an indication of much remorse). Moreover, was he even sane? Do insane people get condemned to hell, if they are not mentally fit to stand before God in their right mind? We won’t know until it’s our turn to face the Final Judgment.
I did find it ironic that bin Laden was killed on Divine Mercy Sunday, where the Church celebrates God’s Mercy.
Now, I’m sure many of my separated Christian brothers would argue that if bin Laden did not believe or accept Jesus Christ, then he is indeed rotting in hell.
But, for Catholics, the Final Judgment is not so clear cut.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul writes, “I am not conscious of anything against me, but I do not thereby stand acquitted; the one who judges me is the Lord.”
We don’t determine who goes to heaven and therefore don’t determine who goes to hell.
In the end, we believe we will be judged according to faith and love (the expression of our faith).
Christ makes clear that it will come down to whether we fed or failed to feed and provide for the hungry, the thirsty, and less fortunate (see Matthew 25). Whatever we do or fail to do for the least of God's children, we do or fail to do for Him.
While it doesn’t appear bin Laden exemplified any of these, we may never know. But, what I do know is that God ultimately judged him and gave him his just due...
What do you think?