In the aftermath of the Patriot's Day bombing
21 Apr 2013
“When the Gentiles heard this [offer of salvation], they were glad and praised the word of the Lord.” (Acts 13:48) In the name …
Patriots Day started off beautifully and then everything changed in about 12 seconds. 29 year old Krystle Campbell a vivacious restaurant manager died in that day’s terrorist bombing. Her mother tried to speak about her to the media, but couldn’t. 23 year old Lu Lingzi was a graduate student at Boston University living her dream of studying in America. Her parents sent her off with the greatest of hopes and she was also murdered. 8 year old Martin Richard was enjoying the Marathon with his family when the bombing took his life. His picture is posted everywhere holding up an 8 year old’s crayon sign that reads: “No more hurting people. Peace.” Hundreds of people were injured, many traumatically. And decent people throughout the world anguished over yet another act of senseless, cowardly terrorism. Then as the two brothers ran for their lives as the police closed in on them, they indiscriminately threatened the lives of still others and murdered Officer Sean Collier. Only their lives mattered to them. And that is exceptionally pathetic.
The brothers never took public responsibility for the bombings so they didn’t intend to send some message out to the world. All that they wanted to accomplish, therefore, was the destruction and death that we have all seen on our televisions. Maybe for these two brothers the normalcy of Boston life was the aberration that they could not stand any longer. Maybe they felt motivated to share the violence of Chechnya with our streets. Maybe their normal was perverted. Maybe families enjoying themselves and athletes competing against each other made them so angry they wanted to steal this away from others because they imagined it had been stolen from them. Or maybe they were just sick. There is no excuse for their cowardly acts. Their acts were intentional and they are fully responsible for them and justice demands that they be treated accordingly. But it seems their sense of empathy had been destroyed somehow. The two brothers must have felt a closeness to each other and the ones they loved, but they could not translate those same feelings into the lives of others. They could not seem to imagine that others had loved ones in their lives too. They could not see that others were like them. And again, that is exceptionally pathetic.
This lack of empathy, this inability to appreciate life from someone else’s perspective, is often the breeding ground for evil. We don’t need to speak of supernatural devils to explain intentional evil in our world. We need to see such evil as all too natural when people are taught that others who are different are unimportant. The remedy is to stress that differences don’t need to separate us, that we’re alike in so many more important ways than we are different. We need to keep celebrating the shared humanity of events like the Boston Marathon, events where people come together from all over the world, from elite runners to men in their late 70’s, all degree of runners who are out competing against each other and even their own best times, and who are encouraged by family, friend and stranger along their path. As our President said, we won’t hunker down in isolation because of this kind of cowardly act. We will continue to celebrate what is good and noble in our world. And next year the Marathon will be run again, and families will celebrate again.
The brothers who did this, as President Obama said, are “stunted.” But they do not define us as humans. They are the aberration. The near universal response of solidarity with the people of Boston speaks out loud and clear that evil is real, but that humanity and compassion are even more real. The stories of ordinary people ripping off their shirts to make tourniquets to help the injured. People opening their homes to strangers so that they have a place to rest, to shower, to call loved ones. Restaurants putting up signs for the runners who had no wallets or anything besides the clothes on their backs that if they could not pay they were still welcome. Athletes rushing to hospitals after running 26 miles to donate blood for other runners, their families and fans. A few people are small, savage and stunted, but the vast majority of us are the exact opposite. This is why we can hope even after a week like the one we have just lived through.
You’ve probably seen on television or the internet the clip about Mr. Rogers. Children can be scared and scarred by these kinds of events. Mr. Rogers, who was a trained child psychologist and minister, tells us that often the nightmares of children after these kinds of things are worse than the act itself. The children need to know that there are a great many good people in the world. Mr. Rogers’ advice rings true: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” That’s what all of us need to do. We need to look at the examples of the helpers, the ones who ran toward the mayhem not away from it. In their example, we should find our example. I haven’t figured out the connection yet, but when I typed in “Boston Strong” on Google one of the sayings that came up was the following: “Be the kind of woman that when you wake up in the morning the devil says“‘Oh man, she's up again.’” May whoever this was written about define us too. May we be so offended by the evil of the few that we make a real difference for the good in how we lead our lives.
And that can begin with empathy, with seeing others as like ourselves. In today’s Lesson we hear that outsiders are rejoicing over Paul’s message of inclusion, that God loves all people. May we appreciate this early proclamation as a basic tenet of our faith. And may we see the basic goodness of most every person as the reason why God calls all sorts of different people to be His beloved children, and therefore our brothers and sisters. May we strive to be worthy of this calling by doing our part to make the devil say when we get up in the morning, ‘O man, they’re up again.” Evil is real, but it’s small. And we can prove that every day by the way we choose to live as followers of Christ. In His name we pray. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randolph Calvo