I hear of so much violence through the media that my heart easily becomes desensitized to it. But not this week. I can barely hear of what happened to James Foley. My heart aches and longs as I see his parents and brother, especially how they are expressing their grief and the ways they are talking about their loss.
Their love and grace and lack of vindictiveness makes the whole thing harder for me. Had they responded with the common world-default "eye for an eye" philosophy I would be hating instead of grieving. Pure, unpolluted grief does not hate, but loves.
The Foleys talked with Pope Francis. ""Pope Francis, like Jesus, loves, like Jim. He understood Jim's heart," Diane Foley said of her son, who "was able to draw strength from prayer" during his capture. She said love and compassion had drawn her son to cover the plight of the people in Syria, which has been embroiled in a violent conflict for the past several years... "We must stand together," Diane Foley said. "Good and love and all that is free in the world must be together to fight the evil and the hatred.""
We are going to fight evil with "good" and "love." That is correct. There is no other way. "Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you." (Jesus.)
Jim Foley was a Jesus-follower who prayed. "Foley was a devout Christian who, unlike most journalists I've known during my almost four decades in the field, was unapologetic about his heart for social justice and the inspiration he found for his beliefs in the New Testament." ("James Foley: Beheading victim had deep faith")
When he was held captive in Libya in 2011 Jim later said that "prayer was the glue that enabled my freedom, an inner freedom first and later the miracle of being released during a war in which the regime had no real incentive to free us.” ("Journalist James Foley Turned to Prayer for Strength")
Jim and fellow prisoner Claire "prayed together out loud. It felt energizing to speak our weaknesses and hopes together, as if in a conversation with God, rather than silently and alone." (From here.)
Jim said "I'd pray to stay strong. I'd pray to soften the hearts of our captors. I'd pray to God to lift the burdens we couldn't handle. And I'd pray that our Moms would know we were OK."
At his life's end on earth James Foley was dressed in orange and a hooded killer beheaded him. One writer concludes: "This time, God did not answer James Foley's prayers. This time, James Foley was not delivered from evil." (Here.)
But God did, and Jim was. The root of evil lies in the human heart. Jim was delivered from what Thomas Merton referred to as inner "seeds of destruction" and Paul Tournier called "the violence within." As Jesus was free even as he was brutalized, Jim did not succumb and drink from the sickspring of evil. Jesus "loved them to the end." This is the message that comes through Jim's life and family and simultaneously crushes me and gives me hope.
Elisabeth Scalia writes: "Prayer is a subversive means of freedom, at once consoling, engaging and efficacious throughout time and space. It has power, and that power holds, when everything else falls apart."
Prayer is the glue that enables my freedom and holds me together when everything else falls apart.