After the Boston Marathon Attack: What Can We Do?

God be with those who suffer because of yesterday’s attack at the Boston marathon. What was to be a day of achievement and celebration became one marked by death and destruction, pain and fear.

Thanks be to God for the hope, even here. As Cardinal O’Malley put it:

In the midst of the darkness of this tragedy we turn to the light of Jesus Christ, the light that was evident in the lives of people who immediately turned to help those in need today. We stand in solidarity with our ecumenical and interfaith colleagues in the commitment to witness the greater power of good in our society and to work together for healing.

Most Americans probably weren’t at the Boston marathon yesterday and did not have loved ones there. What can we do to help? How can we respond? How can what happened – both the evil and the good, the heroism and the witnesses of hope — change each one of us?

Maybe it was her name, but a note I just got from a religious sister with the Daughters of St. Paul, caught my eye. It was a mass e-mail to customers of Pauline bookstores they run and I think you might appreciate reading it (bold and itals are mine):

Lord, give me your eyes….

#bostonmarathon #prayforboston

Again we are confronted with tragedy and sorrow so near to home. Indeed, the 23,000+ runners from all over the world mean there are families and fans from every country on earth looking for loved ones, watching the news, trying to piece together what has happened. I have been watching the Live Blog on my iPhone and the front pages of 12 UK newspapers reporting on the bombing were just posted. The world is a single neighborhood now, and we share in each other’s pain and sorrow so easily. A tweet at 6:52 PM by PatrickCH stated that “seconds after the bomb, before the smoke cleared, people were tearing down the barriers to help, to assist, to save.” A tally of those who are injured at Beth Israel hospital follows. I whisper a prayer for them. It is confirmed that one of the first victims is a child.

I have been reflecting on the apostles caught in the storm at sea. They were alone, or at least they thought they were alone. Their attention was absorbed by the storm and trying to survive, so much so that they didn’t see Jesus coming to them across the water, and when they did see him, they didn’t recognize them. Evil is like that. Whether we watch the news reports of hurricanes or tornadoes, roadside bombings in Afghanistan, tsunamis, shootings in schools, or now the bombing at the end of the Boston Marathon, the evidence of evil at work is seductive. It not only manipulates those who are directly caught in its web, perpetrators and victims alike, but it affects onlookers as well.

The terror we see in each tragic event is cracked open by the miracle of generous and selfless service that blossoms in its wake. But what is the role I have as spectator, as witness of all this. I would like to propose that our role–the role of one who is not “at the scene”–is the role of attentiveness, of prayer, of compassion. We have the space to reflect upon what is happening, to acknowledge our fear, our sorrow for what is happening, our anger, our anxiety for the future. If we have the courage to go to the root of our experience, we can ask ourselves the ultimate question, “Can I trust in the real presence of the Good Shepherd, even now?” We can become the flame of faith that burns anew and with even greater strength in the world. We can be the love that will heal the world. We can be the light that shines bravely into the future.

We are in the Easter Season, these fifty days in which we celebrate the new creation brought about by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. These events make us face our faith. Is the victory of sin and death brought about by Jesus real to me? How real? And what comfort does this reality give to me? It takes courage not to get mesmerized by the darkness around us in order to look for Jesus who is coming to us even in these circumstances.

Jesus, help me to keep my focus. Teach me to see the world through your eyes, with your compassion. Give me an attentive spirit that I might taste your Presence with us even now, hear your Voice speaking in the midst of confusion, grasp your Hand reaching to lead us through the dark valley to the place of flowing streams. Amen.

Sr. Kathryn James, fsp

In the face of the Unspeakable, perhaps, we truly learn who we are and where we want to be.

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