Yesterday evening, I was helping lead a Life Teen social event at my parish, celebrating the beatification of (now) Blessed Pope John Paul II. At one point during the night, a youth received a text. And then another youth received a text. And the exclamation from both was the same: "Hey guys! Osama Bin Laden is dead!" Immediately there was an eruption of discussion: Did he get shot? Who shot him? Did they simply find his body? Was the US involved? The announcement of the death of a guy who many presume to be behind so much of the pain and heartache in recent history was jarring. I for one, was shocked that people were already sending texts about it. But one of the youth cut to the heart of the matter. When someone again declared, "It's true! He's dead!" this youth meekly asked,
"...Should we...be happy about this?"
I wouldn't go so far as to say that we should be happy, but on the one hand, I guess we could say that there is a certain sense of relief. A relief that maybe no more evil things would happen in the world on account of him. We are called to love the sinner, but hate the sin. Osama's actions were grotesque and evil. But at the same time, Osama, like everyone else who is born, is created in the image and likeness of God. And Osama, like everyone else who is born, is loved by God, and is called to share in the love and happiness that can only be found in God and His heavenly kingdom. But Osama, like everyone else who is born, can accept or reject the love of Christ, and judgment fell on his soul when he died, just as our souls will be judged when we die. So should we be rejoicing about his actual death? In the sense of "YES. He's dead. What a dirtbag. Good riddance. Hope he's burning."? No. We shouldn't be happy. That just isn't being charitable.
Because if Osama Bin Laden IS dead, the next question to ask would be, "Where is his soul now?" And no one on this planet has the authority, the power, or the insight to be able to judge the state of his soul, no matter how evil he may have acted. We can't say that he is in heaven. But we also can't say that he is in hell. As easy as it might be to react to the news of his death by saying "Well, guess he's in hell now," we just cannot say with certainty.
When some of the youth started discussing with me and one of the other leaders whether Osama is in hell, and in turn, whether Judas Iscariot is in hell, we both simply stated that we don't know. But we also stated that we hope that they are in heaven. We have to hope that in their last minutes of life, they somehow found Christ in the way that they knew best, and allowed God, whose love, wisdom, and understanding far outweighs ours, to envelop their hearts. We have to hope.
In no way am I refuting the encyclical Redemptoris Missio, which stated that the Church holds the key to salvation, including those people outside of the Church, and in no way am I disregarding the Sacrament of Reconciliation. But as Catholics, it is our duty to hope that all will be saved. The catechism says that Hope is our "confident expectation of divine blessing and the beatific vision of God" (2091). And if we truly love God and have hope in Him, then we will love and hope for our neighbours as well. Christ commanded us to love one another as He loved us (John 15:12), and Christ loved all, by dying for all. God doesn't want "any to perish, but all to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). Yes, people have free will, and can choose to reject God - God doesn't send people to hell, they send themselves there - but why would we, as fellow members of the Communion of Saints, want them to be separated from supreme goodness? We have to hope.
We should all take the events of this past Sunday - the second week of the Easter season - as more than just mere coincidence. God has shown us the glory and beauty of His love through the beatification of Pope John Paul II. The Father has demonstrated that by dying with Christ, our beloved JP II has indeed risen with Him as well, and now prays for all of us here on earth.
It was also Divine Mercy Sunday, the day established by Blessed Pope John Paul II as the day that the Church recognizes Christ's appearances to St. Faustina, showing her the divine mercy that He wants to bestow on the world.
It was also the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, and the Church recognizes the work that St. Joseph did, protecting the Child Jesus and Mother Mary.
Add to all that the cool facts that Pope John Paul II died in 2005 on the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday, and that he was the pope who canonized St. Faustina, and you have a whole bunch of events that just seem to match up. It is almost as if on this Divine Mercy Sunday in particular, God is calling all of us to look at the Saints who have gone before us, and ask for their intercession. Maybe it all means something.
So today, please, please, please say a prayer for Osama Bin Laden. Say a prayer for Judas Iscariot. Pray that they may also be sharing, like St. Joseph, St. Faustina and Blessed Pope John Paul II, in the beatific vision, seeing God face to face. Pray that one day, all of us will be caught up with them in eternal love. Pray for them, and hope.
Blessed Pope John Paul II, pray for us.
St. Faustina, pray for us.
St. Joseph, pray for us.
For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins, and save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of your mercy.