The afternoon of May 1 my husband and I experienced something mystical. It’s taken me a while to write this down because the feeling remains so powerful. Greg was at the shopping mall and I was at home planning lessons and menus.
About the same time, we both suddenly felt a powerful overwhelming sense of relief and release. You see, my husband narrowly survived the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
He escaped from the 68th floor of Tower One 11 minutes before the building collapsed. Inexplicably, without warning, we both felt the weight of the trauma and the painful years following lifted. Monday night over dinner we discovered we’d both experienced the same powerful sense of relief at the same time.
What happened May 1? Pope John Paul II was beatified; Osama Bin Laden was killed; and the Church celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday. My husband and I felt no joy in Bin Laden’s death but we do feel that justice has been served. The desire for justice is very human, I believe; we want to see criminals punished.
But as I contemplated the death of the man who tried to murder my beloved, I also considered Bin Laden’s destiny, which now is in God’s hands. We have no way to know the state of his soul in the moments before his death; and the depth of God’s mercy remains a mystery. Taking a look at Blessed Pope John Paul II’s life, which mirrored Christ’s in so many ways, we learn that mercy is greater than justice.
Last night, during my School of Community we talked about Communion and Liberation’s statement on the events of May 1. One of my friends said since May 1 he has been meditating on a passage from Luke. I wasn’t familiar with it, so I googled it during the meeting and read it out loud. It gave me goosebumps.
Christ’s tells us that tragedy can befall people through no fault of their own and he tells us in the same breath that God is abundantly merciful. “Those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them –do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”
He goes on to talk about the importance of mercy: “There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, he said to the gardener, ‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. (So) cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?’ He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.’”
We all fall short of the glory of God. As Christians, the task before us is to seek to be as merciful as Christ Himself. We can thank God for the witness of Blessed Pope John Paul II’s life. He faced evil head on, (shown above meeting with his would-be murderer) and yet somehow found the strength to forgive. As Pope Benedict XVI tells us: “Forgiving is not ignoring but transforming.”