"I cannot pray for mercy for them"

Dear Father Bloom,

I read that the Holy Father said the following on the anniversary of the attacks: "for the eternal rest of the victims, and that God will grant mercy and pardon to the authors of this terrible terrorist attack."

I'm having a hard time understanding why we should pray for mercy and pardon to be granted Osama bin Laden and the hijackers.

I want God to forgive my sins and so wish him to forgive the sins of others, but this sin???? I have to say, if God has mercy and pardon for those who perpetrated this crime, then I'm not so sure I want to worship God. What is the point, if there is no justice after death? This wasn't an accident, it wasn't a mistake, it wasn't done in a fit of rage or passion, it was cold blooded and well thought out and planned. I cannot pray for mercy for them anymore than I can pray for Hitler.

I appreciate your thoughts, Thank you.



Dear Valerie,

I know what you mean. The idea that people like Hitler, Bin Laden and the hijackers, could so totally disregard other human beings, then be absolved, welcomed into heaven, just doesn't make sense. It would be an eternal mockery of their victims. Somehow justice has to come into the picture. We do know that God is just and that before any of us could enter heaven, we must face our wrongdoing, admit it and pay the appropriate penalty.

Besides being perfectly just, God is also merciful. Like you, I am counting on that. However, it is, to use C.S. Lewis' phrase, a severe mercy. When we really meet it, we may not want it. I cannot imagine that people like Hitler, Bin Laden, Mao, Margaret Sanger, Milosevic, etc. will want God's mercy. You and I might not want it unless we pray and place ourselves at the feet of the cross every day.

Have you read Lord of the Rings? Consider these words:

You have robbed my revenge of sweetness, and now I must go hence in bitterness, in debt to your mercy. I hate it and I hate you! (Saruman to Frodo, Lord of the Rings)

There are people (you and I have met them) who despise mercy. They live for revenge, which they call justice, and - unless they repent - will spend eternity railing against mercy.

Of course, you or I could never wish that for anyone, even for Hitler or that person who cynically abused us or someone we loved. But in asking mercy for them we are not saying, "Don't worry. It was nothing. You didn't mean it." We are really asking that they be brought to the full awareness of what they did and make the reparation demanded not only by human, but by divine justice.

Those are my reflections, Valerie. This is a terribly difficult subject and it is easy to say things incorrectly. As I mention, the place to receive ones own answer is before the cross. There to slowly say the Lord's prayer, "Forgive us our trespasses..."

Pray for me that I will bring my hurts, anger to the place of healing - and I will do the same for you. God bless,

Fr. Bloom

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