Make me an instrument of Thy Peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
This prayer is attributed to Saint Francis. He was born in 1181 or 1182 into a wealthy family in Assisi, Umbria. He grew up in comfort, turned into a rowdy youth, and eventually looked for glory on the battlefield. His life plan altered when he encountered God. In prayer, he heard God tell him to rebuild the church. He devoted himself to a life of prayer, poverty and service. He is the founder of the Order of Friars Minor (OFM), usually called the Franciscans. He died in 1226 after a life of prayer, poverty, and service. His life, work, and words have inspired countless numbers of people.
where there is injury, pardon;
Less than an hour’s drive away, a jury is deciding between life in prison and death for a man in his early twenties. Two years back, he and his brother set bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing several people and wounding many more. For the past several weeks, his face has been a constant presence on screens as well as in print. With the pictures come comments and questions: is he remorseful? is he as human as everyone else? does he deserve to die for what he’s done?
News anchors and reporters talk about closure for the families and friends of those who lost their lives or their health at the end of the marathon. First they said that a verdict in the trial might bring closure, but now it’s linked to the life or death decision that the jury will give. When that’s over, they will move on to another phase: closure when the death sentence is carried out or when he’s confined to a small space for decades. It won’t ever be dropped, really. If another bomb goes off anywhere in the world, the questions and comments will return; whenever the marathon is run in Boston, they will come up again. There is no end to the focus, this rehashing of a tragic event.
Grave injury as been done, and nothing can change that. It shouldn’t be denied or taken lightly. Guilt and innocence, reckoning and responsibility come with such acts. But the unending focus on injury won’t change history and it won’t help anyone find peace or closure. At some point, even this injury must be allowed to recede from center stage. I think that’s what pardon is – the willingness to let someone who has done harm move past it so that all those who were harmed can do the same. Without this, aren’t we all still standing at the finish line, bombs falling endlessly?