We witnessed a whirlwind of events in the past week that deeply impacted many of us. With so much tragedy happening around the world, we found comfort in the overwhelming support, prayers, heartfelt appeals, and sincere messages from families, friends, and leaders. For those who think that we are ordinary people, for many of us, all we can do is hold onto the belief that when our collective prayers come together, they have the power to bring about the needed change.
This past week has been an emotional rollercoaster as we witnessed the vast loss of lives and livelihoods. The level of violence occurring globally exceeds the languages and knowledge we can fathom. The pain experienced by those directly affected is unimaginable. A mix of emotions swirls inside us – anger, worry, guilt, fear, and profound sadness.
Every morning, I make it a habit to offer my prayers, seeking guidance on who or what should be the focus of my supplications. I pray for the vulnerable, the countless innocent souls caught in this ongoing tragedy, and all those unintentionally swept up in its chaos.
This week, a different kind of prayer came to mind.
I reflected on those who feel compelled to take lives, who throw themselves into the heart of war zones. I thought about the veterans, both young and old, who have shouldered the wounds of wars. It may seem easy to label them as heartless, but that may not be the entire truth. It’s a tragedy for anyone to have to choose to end another human’s life. I would never encourage anyone to be in such a position – a place of harming others and the trauma, guilt, shame, and regrets it entails; a subject often left unspoken in these tumultuous times.
Such actions of harming others remain a crime in ordinary circumstances. Those who commit crimes in ordinary situations can be wounded and injured too, both physically and mentally. It must be no less for those committing war crimes in this unusual time.
I’d never say that we must understand and forgive those who harm us physically, emotionally, and mentally, whether with or without harmful intent. I always ache and empathize with victims and survivors first, and that’s my usual tendency. However, this week, I found myself thinking about those who were forced and driven to choose to harm and end the lives of others. How can they do that? Are they human?
It’s hard to acknowledge that they are human.
In my quest for solace and wisdom, I stumbled upon John O’Donohue’s “A Book of Blessings” last week. Perhaps I was searching for blessings during this dark, difficult time. Along the way, I discovered a poignant prayer that transcends my narrow perceptions and biases, serving as a powerful reminder of the complicated humanity we all share. I want to share it with you today.
FOR THE PARENTS OF ONE WHO HAS COMMITTED A CRIME
No one else can see beauty
In his darkened life now.
His image has closed
Like a shadow.
When people look at him,
He has become the mirror
Of the damage he has done.
But he is yours;
And you have different eyes
That hold his yesterdays
In pictures no one else remembers:
Waiting for him to be born,
Not knowing who he would be,
The moments of his childhood,
First steps, first words,
Smiles and cries,
And all the big thresholds
Of his journey since…
He is yours in a way
No words could ever tell;
And you can see through
The stranger this deed has made him
And still find the countenance of your son.
Until it heals whatever darkness drove him
And he can see what it is he has done
And seek forgiveness and bring healing;
May this dark door open a path
That brightens constantly with new promise.
(O’Donohue, John., To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings, Doubleday, 2008.)
 PC(USA) is working on this Regarding Worship Resources for Ministering to Veterans