A friend Daxaben Sanghvi says that she has given up reading newspaper in the morning! For, newspapers bring daily bad news. Daxaben does not wish to afflict her mood reading sad news and negative reporting early in the morning.
Shakespeare has said that our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thoughts. When we read every day early morning sad news and reports about crimes our mind may recall the words of Shakespeare.
But as an exemption a small news item appeared in social media, which spread far and wide like a virus. Many innocent people died in a Paris restaurant where the terrorists of Islamic state fired indiscriminately and killed many people. Among the dead there was the wife of Antoine Leiris. Mr. Leiris wrote a letter to those terrorists who killed his wife.
“Friday night, you took an exceptional life — the love of my life, the mother of my son — but you will not have my hatred I don’t know who you are and I don’t want to know, you are dead souls. If this God, for whom you kill blindly, made us in his image, every bullet in the body of my wife would have been one more wound in His heart.”
“So, no, I will not grant you the gift of my hatred. You’re asking for it, but responding to hatred with anger is falling victim to the same ignorance that has made you what you are. You want me to be scared, to view my countrymen with mistrust, to sacrifice my liberty for my security. You lost.”
In his letter we can note one thing. Antoine Leiris does not hate the terrorists who shot dead his wife; but he warns the terrorists that they will not reach paradise, where he has faith to reach and meet his wife. In this warning of Antoine Leiris we see his love and concern for the terrorists.
We generally hate the criminals who have been caught and imprisoned for crimes like rape and murder. With feeling of hatred and revenge we call for death and capital punishment for such criminals. In such situations hatred and revenge remain with us. The response of Antoine Leiris is a challenge for us to reflect on.
Here I would like to recall an incident of a rape noted in the 34th chapter of Genesis. Dinah is the daughter of Jacob from his wife Leah. Dinah on her way to meet her relatives has been raped during the journey by Shechem, son of Hamor the Hivite, the chief of that region. Then, with the intention of marriage with Dinah, Shechem hid her in his house. Then Hamor and Shechem (father & son) went to meet Dinah’s father Jacob and her brothers. They pleaded with Jacob and sons to give Dinah in marriage without any dowry.
Shechem also promised Jacob and the brothers of Dinah money and ornament in return for Dinah. As Shechem has violated their sister Dinah her brothers gave Shechem and his father deceitful answer. They said that it is not our custom to give in marriage our sister to people who are not circumcised. So they said to Hamor and his son and all males of his caste, “We cannot let our sister marry a man who is not circumcised; that would be a disgrace for us.”
Hamor and his son agreed to the condition of circumcision because Shechem loved Dinah very much. All citizens of the city agreed with what Hamor and Shechem proposed. All the males were circumsed. Three days later, when the men were still sore from their circumcision, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, the brothers of Dinah, took their swords, went into the city without arousing suspicion, and killed all the men including Hamor and his son Shechem. Then, they took Dinah from Shechem’s house and left.” But Jacob did not like his sons, way of revenge. So Jacob took his sons all men and all his possessions and went away and stayed at Bethel.
Many years after that Jacob on his death bed called all his sons and told them what was in his mind. To Simeon and Levi, the blood relative sons, Jacob said that, the sword is the weapon of killing. “I will not take part in their company because they have killed many in their anger. For, becoming very angry they killed people. I curse their anger because that is fierce. I will scatter them in the land of Jacob and I will disperse them all among its people.” Jacob said. (Gen 49:6)
In the whole story of Jacob we can see that he was much disturbed with the rape of his daughter Dinah. But he is much more worried about his two sons who used their sword to kill not only the one who raped their sister but also all males of his community. So he scorns the anger of his sons and decides not to keep their company.
From these words and actions of Jacob we can certainly learn one lesson. It is for God to do justice not for men to take revenge Forgiveness and mercy are proper to men. The words and actions of Jacob point a finger to Jesus’ message. For Jesus said, “Love your enemies and do good to them.” (Lk 6; 35). We can see God’s mercy on the entire humanity. In the words of Jesus to love your enemies and do good to them. We may recognize Christmas as an expression of God’s mercy. For, Baby Jesus lying in the manger in Bethlehem is the personification of God’s mercy.
When we hate criminals and clamor for capital punishment for them and blame the authorizes that sufficient punishment is not given to the criminals such things project that show our attitude without mercy. This attitude is one of revenge and hostility. That is the attitude of a murderer. This murderer’s attitude and mentality we can see in the king of Judea King Herod’s case. History has described well the murderous mentality and attitude of King Herod. King Herod delt very cruelly with his mother and his foster father. He also killed many of his own relatives. In his attempt to kill Baby Jesus he ordered to kill all the children of two years younger and in Bethlehem and surrounding places.
King Herod was afraid that Baby Jesus would one day become the king of the Jews and overthrow his throne. We celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus, who loved even the murderous king Herod. The love with which Jesus preached we see in His forgiveness and mercy. Forgiveness is very different from hatred and revenge. In the attitude of Jesus we see love and forgiveness. So let us leave to God to do justice in the context of great tyranny and cruelty.
Let us leave the path of revenge and hatred and take the path of love and of forgiveness and of mercy, on which Jesus walked. This way we will enjoy our life; and we also persuade and inspire others to love, forgive and have mercy.
Changed On: 01-02-2018
Next Change: 16-02-2018
Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018