Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Praying for bin Laden?

Last week Osama Bin Laden was killed. I felt pride a few days later when I read the message from our New York friars. The message had a particular Franciscan flavour as it sought to express  a  Gospel response. They acknowledged the great pain and loss caused by the September 11th attack; indeed one of our own  friars, Mychal Judge, died at the Twin Towers. But they challenged the idea of rejoicing in someone's death, and asked for prayer and reflection at this time.

'Osama bin Laden in many ways became the embodiment of our fears. The announcement of his death, then, may have produced an understandable dimension of cathartic release — a sense, or at least hope, that things may be better. Such a release may initially express itself in joy. But, if we are honest with ourselves as Christians, we quickly feel quite uncomfortable with a joy that comes from the death of another human being — even one we call our enemy. Isn’t this discomfort the sting of conscience reminding us that as Gospel people, as Easter people in this season of hope, we are called by God to something more?'

'We are reminded in the Word of God: “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; or the LORD will see it and be displeased.” (Proverbs 24:17-18a)'

This message is counter-cultural... it certainly goes against the general way of thinking,  just as much of the Gospel does. I am sure what the friars said perplexed or even angered many people, especially when they asked for prayers, not just for ourselves, but for Bin Laden and his family.

'Reflecting on this decisive moment should move us to prayer. We pray for Osama bin Laden, his family and those who follow his leadership: that they may not harden their hearts at his killing and seek revenge. We pray too for ourselves: that we might not rest in joy at his death or harden our own hearts.'

Living by the Gospel, putting the radical teachings of Jesus into practice, does not make for a comfortable life!