Tuesday, April 16, 2013

IN THE AFTERMATH OF “THE BOSTON MASSACRE”

Tomorrow by Paul Emerson Marquart

Every Tuesday while we ‘re sojourning on the Mountain here in Sewanee, Tennessee, we go out to St. Mary’s Convent for Morning Prayer and Eucharist, and this morning I was glad to enter the convent chapel to meditate and pray after viewing scenes of yesterday’s bombing at the site of the Boston Marathon. Like so many shocked Americans, I was mesmerized by scenes that flashed on the television screen all day. The scene that keeps replaying in my mind is that of first responders, members of medical teams, and other “helping” groups rushing toward those wounded, tearing down fences that had held back those who had come to view the winners at the finish line to get to victims maimed in the blasts. Those helpers ran forward without thinking about the possibility of encountering more bombs that could have exploded and taken their lives. Their action was an amazing show of courage and caring in the face of a horrifying act of terrorism --coincidentally, or perhaps not so coincidentally, we read Psalm 31 at Morning Prayer, and I was struck by the appropriateness of the verse: “Blessed be the Lord! For he has shown me the wonders of his love in a besieged city…”
I also thought about a comic strip that I frequently use in my sermons–Peanuts. The particular strip that came to mind was that in which Lucy, accompanied by Linus, is pointing to an outline of a heart imprinted on a fence. She says, “This, Linus, is a picture of the human heart.” And in the next frame, she explains to vulnerable Linus, “One side is filled with hate, and the other side is filled with love. These are the two forces, constantly at war with each other.” Linus looks away from Lucy who is, of course, staring intently at him, and says: “I think I know what you mean. I can feel them fighting.”
Most of us today are probably experiencing that same kind of battle going on within us, for how else could we feel in the face of the killing field in Boston that flashed on our television screens endlessly yesterday? I don’t think any of us could honestly say that anger didn't well up in us as an initial reaction when we watched people falling down in a street overshadowed by the smoke from two bombs. Most of us harbored a lively hostility for the unknown perpetrator(s) who dared to invade the city that could be called our birthplace of freedom.
I think that we struggle daily with this dichotomy of Linus love/hate. But we go on. We go on mostly because we’re a faithful people….and a loving people. After 9-11, I remember President Bush quoting at a service in the National Cathedral in Washington: “Adversity introduces us to ourselves. This is true of our nation as well.” We were introduced to this notion that Americans are models for the world immediately around us…and those in the world who are farthest from us. That awful time taught us that we’re often observed, with great scrutiny, under circumstances of acute distress and horror, to see how we’ll react. And what those who looked at us yesterday saw was that with grace working in the hearts of those “helpers,” evil was broken down and destroyed. I’m sure there were many stories of generosity and goodness being lived out in Boston yesterday, and some scribe should write them down so that other generations can read them and be inspired.
Most of us who are Christian believe in peace and in an inward and invisible grace we receive at baptism. One writer has said that the grace that God gives us works like salt–it preserves every grain of goodness it can find and heightens its flavor. We have that salt because we have something called the theology of hope. And although we often groan inwardly, we wait and work in hope. That wonderful theology of hope stands against destruction, conflagrations, and the madness of terrorism. Through our faith… hope… and God’s grace, we’re always being given a transforming gift–something called the gift of love.
Anger is a human and normal emotion and I think we have it, sometimes, to arouse us from deadly lethargy. Psychologists remind us we have anger to protect ourselves, and yet we’re called, if we are people of God, to move through that anger to arrive at transforming love. A tall order, but those first responders yesterday certainly gave us an authentic example of sacrificial love. Proverbs tells us: “Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.” And Teilhard de Chardin wrote in a haiku: “At the heart of matter/a world heart/the heart of a God.”
I sat in the hushed chapel of the Sisters of St. Mary this morning and meditated on these quotes from Proverbs and Teilhard de Chardin, especially praying for the helpers who rushed forward in one great swell of caring, to help the victims of the Boston massacre. What we witnessed moving through the smoke of a horrific crime in the city streets of Boston were rescuers who had “guarded their hearts.”
Painting at beginning of blog is entitled “Tomorrow” by my brother Paul Marquart.
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