May 02, 2011

Bin Laden, Judas, and Divine Mercy

I always enjoy Jennifer Fulwiler's thoughts on spiritual matters. Her atheist-to-Catholic conversion provides a different and often enlightening perspective. Today, she pointed out the shocking truth that God loves Osama bin Laden too. She talks about "one of the most difficult moral truths I’d ever heard: That God not only could, but wants to forgive Osama bin Laden. That even someone who was responsible for a terror attack that slaughtered thousands could ask for God’s forgiveness, and receive it."

What an oddly appropriate day for this news to break - the close of Divine Mercy Sunday and the beatification day of Blessed John Paul II. A great champion of life is honored, and a taker of life is killed. Unable to peer into souls, that is how we mortal men see things. God, though, looks at all men - all - with eyes of mercy. The Catechism tells us that "to die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice." [1033] God wants all to accept His love. He"does not want "any to perish, but all to come to repentance"" [1037], and if we repent, if any of us truly repent and ask God's mercy, we will get it. Even Bin Laden.

That is the difference in the ends of two New Testament men: Judas Iscariot and Saul of Tarsus. Today, we honor St. Paul. Schools and churches are named for him. His is the great conversion story, the one we recall to others when they feel too far gone for God's mercy. (Some of us even name their blogs after him.) He repented and accepted God's loving mercy. What would be different today if Judas had done the same? The great betrayer could have received Christ's mercy and been one of the greatest saints. We could proudly attend St. Judas parish and pray for his intercession. There is no persecutor or betrayer so terrible that God cannot make them a great saint. More importantly, there is no one that God does not will to sanctity. If I am truly conformed to Him, then I must will the same.

In my fallen state, though, I have trouble forgiving even one slight from someone I love. It feels nearly impossible to forgive thousands of deaths from a terrorist leader. How can I pray that bin Laden repented in his last moments? It seems impossible, even wrong. Yet every night, I stand by my son and pray with him those very dangerous words: "...and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."

We ask to be forgiven only as much as we forgive. [2842] Oh, how we need Divine Mercy!

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