In the gospel acclamation from the book of Ezekiel, the Lord says, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked man… but rather in his conversion, that he may live (Ezekiel 33:11).
A popular radio talk show host recently died and the air waves are full of condolences but also, sadly, celebrations. Those who disliked him are publicly rejoicing that he died. Before I get too self-righteous I can honestly say for my part that there have been times I was happy to hear that someone had died. For example, I wasn’t a bit sad to learn that Osama bin Laden had been killed or Saddam Hussein executed. These men were the architects of some truly terrible human disasters; wicked men who met a wicked end, which was exactly what I thought they deserved.
Yet today we hear that God takes no pleasure in their death. Rather, he wanted their conversion; he wanted them home, eternally in union with him.
This might upset our idea of justice. How could such tyrants ever merit the eternal bliss of heaven? How could God love them? Then again we must ask: Are we thinking of justice or vengeance? And have we given enough credit to that most wonderful attribute of God – his infinite, merciful love?
Although our love can never be infinite, Jesus has made it clear that we are still called to love as God loves. Therefore, let us resolve to pray, work, and rejoice in life, not death; to remember that love does not abandon the wicked to their sins but calls them to conversion, that they may find their way out of the darkness and into the healing, forgiving light of Christ.
Just as we ourselves hope to do.