On Monday night, the world was reminded of the terrible things human beings are capable of. A young British man walked into a crowd mainly composed of pre-teen and teenage girls, and, in a moment, ignited a bomb that would engulf himself and kill 21 other people, injuring dozens more. This is an act that undoubtedly deserves a swift response, but unfortunately, the most common reaction seems to be one of fear, and as the fear spread I begin to see more accusations than acts of grace. While I think that justice should definitely be done for those lives lost, that job is best left to the authorities that are responsible for it. For the ordinary person, and especially for the ordinary Christian, this is a chance to embody a spirit of love, with our thoughts and prayers reflecting a holy grief alongside divine hope. Although we should fulfill our civic duties and be educated in the issues surrounding such an aberrant act of violence, we must listen to a higher call. This attack may continue to spread fear and destruction, but we must make ourselves living vessels of a healing power.
This is not to say we must explain away or shroud the evil at the root of this act. We must not ignore the evil in the world and we must not dismiss the power of the darkness in it, but we must overwhelm it with the glory of grace. Recently, I found an old prayer (often attributed to St. Francis, but more likely the work of a writer in the early 20th century) that made me think about how I should respond to such an attack. So, when I am tempted to fear before I love, I challenge myself to think about these words:
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offense, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that once receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life”
There is one passage from the prayer I’d like to quickly remark on:
“O Lord let me not seek as much/ to be consoled as to console, / to be understood as to understand”
Sometimes we must learn before we can love. I must never assume to know the pain of another. So I pray, more than ever, to understand more, not because I want to be smart or seem well-informed, but because I want to love more.