Sunday, April 21, 2013

More Thoughts on Boston Bombings: 4th Sunday of Easter

            We priests and deacons are charged with proclaiming God’s Word in our homily.  Ideally, we connect the readings and make them more alive and concrete for you.
            Today we have a clear connection in the readings.  God is the Good Shepherd and sends His only Son to be, in a sense, one of the flock.  Jesus, the Lamb of God, was slain for our sins.
            Yet I want to share some thoughts this morning on something different.  This has been on my heart this week and I am sure it has been on yours—the bombings in Boston.  We saw another example in our world of innocent people suffering evil they did not bring on themselves.
            Last night on the news one of the commentators said, “This bombing was like throwing filth on the pure.”  I thought this was a vivid image for this event that took place during the Boston Marathon.  I have been blessed with the running community in my own life and know just how this community of athletes, fans, volunteers, family and friends are good people supporting a great human endeavor.  But this wasn’t any marathon, it was the Boston marathon—you can’t just show up and run this one, you have to qualify.  Many of those runners you saw on TV trained years to fulfill this life dream.  Yet these dreams were shattered with the two blasts at the end of the finish line. 
            This week I have been reflecting and praying a lot about this attack.  I especially thought—how are we Christians and Catholics to respond to such atrocity? 
            First, we must seek God.  Now I don’t say this as a cliché or in the caricature of the church mouse on her knees for hours on end.  I mean we must go to God in concrete ways.  We must speak to God honestly about our experiences.  Whether in this tragedy or other forms of suffering in your own life, go to God.  If you are sad, tell Him.  If you are angry, express your anguish.  If you are feeling hopeless, grieved or terror, give Him your burdens.  If all you can do is sigh, cry our scream, do it because God promises in our second reading that he “will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”  True prayer is honest prayer and that is how we go to God.
            And again, we are not going to some abstract deity.  We are going to our loving Father who sent His son to die for us.  Jesus, more than anyone else, can relate to wicked things done to the innocent.  In fact, he is the only true innocent person because he was perfect.  He knows the anguish of betrayal, physical pains of torture and beatings, and a brutal execution.  He knows what the victims, families and our nation are going through now.  We can go to him because he has gone before us in such crises.
            Second, we must learn to forgive.  Jesus asks, if we forgive only our loved ones, what credit is that to us?  In the only prayer he taught us—the Lord’s Prayer that we pray at every Mass—we ask God to, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  Now forgiveness doesn’t mean we need warm fuzzy feelings for perpetrators of violence, like what they did or forget the trauma they caused.  But it does mean we extend mercy even to our enemies, and what greater enemies do we have this week than these two men who bombed the innocent?
            With respect to forgiveness, I have found that it helps to remember that these people are sons of God.  Jesus died for them just like he died for us.  We should pray for their conversion and salvation, as they need God more than ever.  The man in captivity right now is a nineteen-year old kid who is someone’s son, brother and friend.  This man needs Jesus. 
            The Christians of the early Church were known for their forgiveness.  This week in daily Mass we heard about Saul and his conversion.  Saul approved of the killing of Christians and was on his way to Damascus to rip families from their homes to subject them to arrest, torture and death.  If the early Christians were not forgiving, we would have lost one of the greatest saints ever.
            Finally, one image remains in my mind and heart during the marathon.  Many of you probably saw the video footage of the seventy-eight year old man who was a few feet from finishing his forty-fifth marathon when the first blast went off.  His legs buckled and he fell helpless to the ground.  Not entirely sure what was happening, he received help from volunteers to stand back up and finish the race.
            In the Office of Readings this morning, St. Gregory the Great said, “Anyone who is determined to reach his destination is not deterred by the roughness of the road that leads to it.”  We will all be knocked down at some point in our lives to suffering and tragedy.  At these points, when we are lying on our back and helpless, we must turn to God.  We must seek the help of friends, family and the Church to get back on our feet and press forward to the finish line.
            For our nation, the citizens of Boston and all affected by the bombings, we pray that God will give us the grace to turn to Him.  While seeking justice, we ask for forgiveness for the perpetrators of this attack.  We ask for God’s help to get back on our feet and continue running the race.

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