INTERRUPTIONS IN THE MERCY CONTINUUM

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I sometimes think that the media has replaced the Coliseum of Rome and the hangman gallows in the town square. While we believe that seeing the real thing up close would be shocking and somehow scar our psyche, we immerse ourselves through media reports and entertainment in hellish torments against the innocent and the consequences coming to evil people.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been sentenced to death for committing the Boston Marathon bombing, one of the worst acts of terrorism to take place on U.S. soil.[2] In the explosion of 2 homemade bombs, he and his older brother caused the death of 3 people and injured 264 including more than a dozen who lost their legs.
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Sister Helen Prejean, an advocate against the death penalty (and author of the book ‘Dead Men Walking’) met with Tsarnaev and reported that he was remorseful for what he had done.

“He said emphatically, ‘No one deserves to suffer like they did,’ ”
Asked how his voice sounded as he spoke, Sister Prejean said: “It had pain in it, actually, when he said what he did about ‘nobody deserves that.’ I had every reason to think he was taking it in and he was genuinely sorry for what he did.”[3]

Naturally, people will say it’s easy to be remorseful after you are caught and facing the consequences. Are you truly remorseful or are you looking for a way to minimize the evil committed, appearing to be less of a villain?

The truth in most cases of confession is the prompting that comes from getting caught. Why confess if you can keep it a secret and avoid getting what you deserve? Why confess and lose face with others? Why confess when you actually like living in darkness and doing evil deeds?

Before I sidetrack into a discussion on the death penalty, radicalized Muslims or the American justice system, let me bring it to church. Where are you dealing with the tension between justice and mercy?

Are you convinced of the radical unconditional love of God? Do you tremble at the justice of God? For followers of Jesus, this is the truth behind the news. Mercy and justice are the atmospheres of Heaven and Hell.

You may think I am extreme to even compare our ‘little sins’ to the Tsarnaev brothers; but I must confess that in my heart I have sinned as much as they. Just because I did not detonate a bomb in a crowd does not mean that I have not been just as inhumane in the darker corners of my soul.

Saint Augustine said, “The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works.” He may be right. Until you have asked for mercy for your evil, it will be hard to understand your brother’s need of mercy.


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