A guest priest says daily Mass on Mondays, and the Monday before last he shared sad news that three nuns he knew from a nearby city had died in Burundi. Yesterday, he was back, and he mentioned it again during the homily, but only as a brief reference to the assumptions people make.
Because of the way one of the nuns died, the media had linked the deaths to terrorism. Instead, said the priest, the perpetrator had been a solitary individual with known mental health issues. And he added, “who was having a bad day.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but I never considered beheading a nun to be an offshoot of having a bad day. To me, a bad day is realizing I forgot to take the books back to the library and saying, “Screw it. I’ll just pay the overdue fines.”
What struck me was the sheer charity of how this priest was referring to a grisly homicide. Instead of saying, “This man wasn’t a terrorist, but he was a monster,” the priest was looking at the killer of three elderly women he knew and instead seeing someone carrying an incalculable burden.
And I thought, whatever is the worst thing I’ve ever done or will ever do in my life, it would be nice if people would view it that way. Not brushing it aside, not excusing it and not preventing legal justice from coming into play, but leaving out the personal judgment and letting God handle it. “Yes, she did ____. It was a bad day for her.”
It’s easy to let someone’s worst moment color our perception of everything else. It’s hard not to remember something nasty about someone, especially if only see him/her occasionally. It’s especially hard when I hear it through a third party, so I see someone and know, “This person hurt my friend.” But that one comment, “a bad day,” took me aback. We all do bad things. This priest realized we’re so much more.