The long-awaited news finally came at 11:35 p.m. on Sunday night: America's great enemy Osama Bin Laden had been killed by U.S. special forces in a 40-minute raid on his compound in Pakistan.
The moment was greeted with rejoicing in the streets and a collective sigh by a nation holding its breath for nearly 10 years since that fateful day.
Monday, however, brought a different question — what are we to make of this moment now? And, even another question for the followers of Jesus Christ — what should our response be to this unforgettable moment in the history of our nation? After all, we are the people called not to rejoice over the death of our enemies, but to love them, even in the face of evil.
In fact, just two days after those tragic events in 2001, the daily Gospel reading at Mass was from Luke, "But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." (Luke 6.27-28)
God was speaking peace to us even in the midst of that horror back then and reminding not to give in to hate and violence and revenge and fear.
Certainly Sunday's news was met with a collective sigh of relief — after all this man, whose evil actions changed our world and our lives forever — would not be able to hurt again. His evil is done. His moment has passed.
But Sunday's news was also met with trepidation — what will the reaction be among those radical terrorists who looked to bin Laden as their leader? Will their response only continue the deadly cycle of violence?
The question for the Christian is, Should there also be joy? Should we rejoice that bin Laden is dead?
The Vatican on Monday issued a statement offering the official Catholic response to the news: "Osama bin Laden, as we all know, bore the most serious responsibility for spreading divisions and hatred among populations, causing the deaths of innumerable people, and manipulating religions to this end. In the face of a man's death, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibilities of each person before God and before men, and hopes and works so that every event may be the occasion for the further growth of peace and not of hatred."
I think in this response, we find our answer — and perhaps the most challenging part of being a believer and disciple of the Lord — "a Christian never rejoices" at a man's death.
We can be comforted that evil has not won today; that justice, though delayed, has triumphed; but we must also remain vigilant in our prayer that peace among men and women is our true goal even when it seems far off.
It is not easy to love our enemies; it is not easy to pray for our persecutors; it is not our natural response to turn the other cheek — but all of it is, most definitely, Christian.
As we have known since the earliest days of Christianity — the followers of Jesus are meant to be identified by the way that they love others and one another; a radical love that can in its most noble moments embrace even the enemy and change the world.
Pundits have commented on a return to the sense of unity that came immediately after the events of Sept. 11; a unity that faded into partisan wrangling in the years since. Perhaps our hope and our prayer should be that this might indeed be "the occasion for further growth of peace" in our world — an opportunity to embrace a new way forward together in hope. Perhaps our hope and prayer should be that we might be united in our desire for an end to war and a fulfillment of the promise of peace.
To paraphrase the words attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, "Lord, make each of us instruments of your peace