Like many Americans, I spent most of the day yesterday glued to the TV, watching as events unfolded near Boston. The suspense, anxiety and ultimate relief when the second suspect was captured drew me in like a thrilling action movie.
But at the end of the day, after the last press conference and the last news report, I turned off the TV and I prayed. Because this was not a movie; this was real life. These are real human beings who have been killed and injured, and their families and friends have been plunged into unimaginable grief.
I prayed for the victims, but I also prayed for the suspects. Because they too are beloved children of God, no matter what atrocious acts they may have committed.
In the 1930s, Jesus appeared to St. Faustina, a simple Polish nun. He delivered to her the message of his Divine Mercy, saying that he desires to grant mercy to all souls, even the most hardened sinners. He called on believers to entrust themselves to his mercy, while acting mercifully toward others.
“Be always merciful as I am merciful. Love everyone out of love for Me, even your greatest enemies, so that My mercy may be fully reflected in your heart.”
He also said:
“It is not always within your power to control your feelings. You will recognize that you have love if, after having experienced annoyance and contradiction, you do not lose your peace, but pray for those who have made you suffer and wish them well.”
Grief, anger and fear are natural human reactions to the events in Boston this week. But we must take care not to let these emotions lead to bitter hatred. As difficult as it may be, we are commanded to love those who carried out these heinous acts, to pray for them and yes, forgive them. Jesus is our model in this, praying from the cross for those who were brutally killing him: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”
I do not know what could incite a 19-year-old boy – who by all accounts seemed to be well-adjusted and peaceful, a good student and even a leader in the community – to carry out such horrible actions. In the coming weeks and months, the U.S. justice system will work to determine whether Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother are guilty for the Boston bombings, and we will likely begin to get answers to some of the many questions surrounding the attack.
But I know this much: Jesus has asked us to pray for those who persecute us. This is not easy, but it is part of our calling as Christians. Browsing the internet last night, it was disturbing to see the words of hatred and how many people were condemning this young man to hell. That is never our place. Christ made it clear that we are all in need of forgiveness, and if we hope to receive mercy from him, we must show it to others.
The court system will determine what happens to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. We should be praying for him alongside our continued prayers for the victims. I invite you to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, a prayer given by Christ himself.
For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.