Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Responding to Boston: Being Light, Speaking Peace

Here we are again and this time it is close. Some of you may know that I live no more than a 10 minute walk from the site of the bombing. Here we are again and terror has struck on our front door and more than a hundred people are injured, some very terribly, and three are dead, one of them a beautiful young boy with a toothless grin his face smiling at us in his white First Communion suit from a photograph.  Here we are again.

We're not alone. Bombs also went off in Iraq and Somalia and Afghanistan and Yemen and Pakistan yesterday, but this one was on our peaceful streets on a joyful day - the most joyful day of the year in Boston.  It was Patriot's Day. The Red Sox play early and they won in a walk-off!  And it was the Marathon with all the traditions that come along with it.  The calm and peace was shattered in the span of just a few minutes of chaos; a few minutes of terror.

And so here we are again. Our hearts hang heavy in our chests once again.  Our cheeks are stained with tears again and we wonder what the future holds, what will happen next, what we should make of this moment.

We might also ask those familiar questions of why?  Why did this happen?  Why is there this evil in our world?  Why didn't God stop it?  Where was God?  

Pope Francis, in a message to the people of Boston, "invokes God’s peace upon the dead, his consolation upon the suffering and his strength upon all those engaged in the continuing work of relief and response."  And he reminded us during this difficult moment, "that all Bostonians be united in a resolve not to be overcome by evil, but to combat evil with good (cf. Rom 12:21), working together to build an ever more just, free and secure society for generations yet to come."

It is a simple, but important reminder that evil is not of God and it cannot overcome us.  That, as we've also seen quoted, "darkness cannot overcome darkness; only light can."  Sometimes evil breaks into our otherwise peaceful existence and we are rocked by it. But, our response must be a response of light, must be a response of love, must be a response of goodness and holiness and peace.  There was an explosion, moments of evil, and immediately people ran, not away, but towards those who were injured. They ran in to be that presence of goodness in the midst of that confusion and pain.  This is what God does; this is where He is in the midst of it all.

We do not have to accept the reality of the evil in our midst.  We can be the light. God always, always speaks in these most challenging of moments.  God is not their author; He doesn’t plan them or condone them.  In fact, they are the exact opposite of Him. As St. John tells us, God is love itself.  Anything so that is not of love, is not of God.  This act was not of God. 

So, where was God in all of this?  God is in our midst.  Evil, sadly, again, had a moment and again it was a horrible moment. But in the moments since, God speaks, in the fellow runners, in the health workers, in the just plain good people, in the police and other workers who ran to the scene.  God wants to keep speaking. He wants to speak in you and in me.  Evil wants to speak too.  Evil wants to speak in each one of us now through words of hatred and vengeance and harm.  Don't let it speak.  Let God speak instead through words of love and kindness and compassion and LIGHT. Be God's light in this moment of darkness.  LET BOSTON SPEAK. LET BOSTON SHINE. 

We find ourselves in the midst of our Eastertide today; in the midst of these 50 days celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus; the celebration of the fact that death has no power over us.  Let us make that familiar Easter cry the cry of Boston today: Death where is your victory? Instead, let us remember that God is in our midst wanting to transform even this darkness into light and into newness of life.  Death never has the last word; it never wins.  Every Good Friday now has an Easter Sunday - including this one.

What we celebrate in faith is the incredible reality that in the darkness; in the struggle and pain that life sometimes brings; in our challenges and in our sorrows – our God is not distant from us. He is in our midst to comfort us; hold us; cry with us; laugh with us; and to be with us in every way possible.  The famous dramatist Paul Claudel said it this way, “Jesus did not come to explain away suffering or remove it. He came to fill it with His presence.”

This is the hope of our faith; a hope that we must remind ourselves of today more than ever. Darkness is never the end of our story; death never wins the day.  There is always another chapter that ends with a Savior who conquers even death itself; who even in the midst of the most horrible things we can imagine brings life right out of the grip of death.  In the shock of this moment; it may be hard to see that today; but in faith, in our hearts we must believe it.  This is not only the hope of Easter; but it is the hope of this town. Jesus wants to fill this moment with His presence.

So, where was God? God has been speaking in the face of a moment of evil – speaking words of love, and comfort and care and hope. He is not far away and distant from us, but He is with us; He is here holding us in His arms and comforting us with His words and with His sacraments – His abiding presence in our midst. 

And He is inviting us to speak with Him; to speak His words that He places in our hearts - to speak them loudly to the world so it will know that terror will not define or change us; that anger will not become our way of life; that vengeance will not be what defines us; that we will not let a moment of evil change who our God calls us to be.

May The Lord bless us. May He bring those who lost their lives quickly to Himself. May he comfort those who are in pain and grief. And may He at long last establish us in peace.

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