The Boston Marathon bombing trial continues to be followed by people in Boston, the United States, and beyond. Like others I have been praying in support of the efforts of the US justice system to handle this case that touches the lives of so many. My hope is that the trial will contribute to bringing healing to individuals and to the community.
As the media have shown us in the lives of those affected directly by the bombings, individuals yearn to find healing in every way. I have been led to believe that adopting and maintaining an attitude of mercy and forgiveness is an integral part of being healed. Truly, hatred and even resentment block happiness and progress, while a heart filled with love and forgiveness is, more than anything else, what we need to go forward as individuals and as communities. At certain points in our experience, such a perspective may seem impossible to achieve, but in the words of Christ Jesus, who demonstrated ineffable forgiveness, “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
I have found that feeling a sense of mercy toward others requires an understanding that man is the reflection of God, who is good, as shown by the inspired Word of the Bible. This knowledge of our divine origin allows us to discern our true nature and separate it from characteristics that go against our good nature. To illustrate, when a child is told repeatedly by a parent, or by others, that he is bad, he may begin to believe it, and as he grows older, he may even act it out through malicious attacks on others. But even if he acts out of that false sense of himself, it would still be a false sense – in no way acceptable, but still not the truth of the individual. God, through His compassion and graciousness, gives us the capacity to separate true from untrue character traits. This empowers us to condemn a malicious act, but without having our sense of others, or even our sense of humanity, poisoned by that act.
The Bible shares many accounts of people who committed great wrongs but were redeemed after discovering their true nature and experiencing a sense of spiritual awakening. Moses killed a man but later brought the Ten Commandments to the Israelites and the world. Paul persecuted Christians but later contributed inestimably to Christianity. Jesus helped Zacchaeus, essentially a thief, to repent and give back more than he had stolen (see Exodus 2, 20; Acts 9; and Luke 19, respectively). The fact that each of these people could repent and improve was evidence that they were each created in the image and likeness of God, pure and good. Praying with these thoughts hasn’t made the bombings any less repugnant to me, but it has helped me see beyond the basic view of an essentially evil person.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this publication and of Christian Science, certainly knew what it was like to be deeply wronged. In her 80s she was the target of yellow journalism from Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World newspaper and others. In addition, a group of people attacked her in court using fraudulent information in an attempt to undermine her lifework and gain control of her assets. Moving graciously beyond that maliciousness, she went on to found this publication whose object is to “injure no man, but to bless all mankind” and which has won many prizes, including Pulitzers, for the excellence of its journalism.
In a collection of essays she published is an article titled “Love Your Enemies” that asks: “Who is thine enemy that thou shouldst love him? Is it a creature or a thing outside thine own creation? Can you see an enemy, except you first formulate this enemy and then look upon the object of your own conception? What is it that harms you? Can height, or depth, or any other creature separate you from the Love that is omnipresent good, – that blesses infinitely one and all? Simply count your enemy to be that which defiles, defaces, and dethrones the Christ-image that you should reflect” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 8).
Later, the article continues: “Hate no one; for hatred is a plague-spot that spreads its virus and kills at last.... If you have been badly wronged, forgive and forget: God will recompense this wrong, and punish, more severely than you could, him who has striven to injure you” (p. 12).
While our courts strive to judge correctly, we can quietly affirm that the power to judge rightly comes from God. Our prayers for judge and jury will contribute to a healing outcome to the degree we live the qualities of mercy and justice in our daily lives. How comforting to know that divine Love is, even today, helping us all in this direction.