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Friday, April 26, 2013
Boston - Nothing will shake them
I find it very difficult to preach during times like this when we are supposed to be celebrating the Easter Season and everybody is thinking about the tragedy that happened earlier this week in Boston. I think the only people that have it more difficult than us priests and deacons during this time is late night comedians.
I read an article recently titled "How Late-Night Handled the Boston Tragedy." And I realized in many ways it's how we have to handle it. We are a people of the Resurrection, so we rejoice even in the face of suffering, we can even laugh in the face of death!
We read in the book of Revelation:
“These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress;
they have washed their robes
and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
We are the one's who have survived and continue to survive great distress in our Country. The Boston Marathon is only one of unfortunately numerous terrifying events that have rocked our country over these last years. Our clothes and our memories have been stained with blood.
I'm sure you saw the video and the graphic images from the explosion near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. There was blood splattered on the concrete, people being wheeled away with missing legs, a man comforting a victim laying his body over her trying to protect her and take on her pain, survivors embracing, Marathon runners confused and not knowing which way to turn, and the picture of the little boy in his white first communion suit with the banner of the bread and wine.
There are three things that we can learn from this tragic event if we look with the eyes of faith: First, We can laugh in the face of death. Second, There is an answer to the question: "Why would God let this happen?". And Third, we are called to become love and light.
First, We can Laugh in the Face of Death: "How Late-Night Handled the Boston Tragedy."
Conan O'Brien began his show as always center stage with his big wave of hair in a very heartfelt way: "What an upsetting and sad day it has been... Boston's my hometown – it’s where I grew up, it’s where my family lives. So I wanted to take a moment to say that, like everybody here, my thoughts and prayers are with the people of Boston and everybody who's been affected by this senseless act..." that being said he changed his demeanor and continued: "it is our job to do a show. We’re going to try and entertain you the very best we can. Which, given our track record, gives you people a 20 percent chance of having a good show tonight!"
I think my "job" as a priest and as a preacher is certainly not to entertain or get people to laugh, but to point to the light and to the truth. We hear in the book of Revelation:
"For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne
will shepherd them
and lead them to springs of life-giving water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
We do have a Shepherd that is leading us into Eternal Life. Take a moment now to allow the Father to wipe your tears, to calm your fears, and maybe even to allow you to laugh.
Stephen Colbert began his show with an enthusiastic "Tonight..." and then quickly shifted into a somber tone not without a twinkle in his eye: "look, before we begin, I just want to take a moment to talk about the attack in Boston yesterday. Obviously, our thoughts and our prayers are with everybody there. And as the president said, we don't know who did this, but they will be found, and they will be brought to justice. But whoever did this obviously did not know (anything) about the people of Boston. Because nothing these terrorists do is going to shake them. For Pete's sake, Boston was founded by the pilgrims — a people so tough they had to buckle their (darn) hats on. It is the cradle of the American revolution. A city that withstood an 86-year losing streak. A city that made it through the Big Dig, a construction project that backed up traffic for 16 years — I mean, there are commuters just getting home now. Even their bands are tough. It's the hometown of Aerosmith, who are, in their fifth decade, still going strong. Even Steven Tyler looks fantastic, for a 73-year-old woman!"
He continued, "But here is what these cowards really don't get. They attacked the Boston Marathon. An event celebrating people who run 26 miles on their day off until their nipples are raw — for fun. And they have been holding it in Boston since 1897. And do you know how tough you have to be to run in a whalebone corset? And when those bombs went off, there were runners who, after finishing a marathon, kept running for another two miles to the hospital to donate blood.
So here's what I know. These maniacs may have tried to make life bad for the people of Boston, but all they can ever do is show just how good those people are."
It's interesting how a late night comedy show host can help us see the beauty in an event like this.
The Psalmist reminds us: "Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands; serve the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful song."
We can laugh in the face of death because we are a people of the Resurrection.
Second, There is an answer to the question: "Why would God let this happen?".
As a priest many people will ask me this question, not so much as a question but as a doubt in the goodness of God. The truth is though, that there really is an answer to this question.
The distress is over, the suspects have been stopped and caught and the light is shattering the darkness. But, why did God let this happen? Many will focus on the horror, the tragedy, and how to protect ourselves in the future. I suggest looking at this event with the eyes of faith.
The Late Mr. Rogers had a favorite quote that he remembered from his childhood: "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me 'Look for the people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster' I remember my mothers words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are so many helpers - so many caring people in this world."
What is it that kept those exhausted Marathon runners going for another 2 miles?
What is it that allowed people that instincts would drive to run away to turn and run back into the danger?
What is it that causes our whole nation to grieve for those who were killed or injured?
Why would God let something like this happen? ...Love
You see God gave us a free will in order that we might have the potential to love. This free will also allows us to do quite the opposite. We know in John 3:16 that "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son." He allowed his own Son to suffer a violent death because He so much believed in Love.
God does not intend the evil that happens in this world, but He does permit it. Why? He permits it because of the potential for us to love. He believes in Love so much so that He is willing to risk tragedies like this. Why does God allow things like this to happen? "Look for the helpers." God allows evil to happen because he believes in love.
Third, We are called to become light and love.
"For so the Lord has commanded us,
I have made you a light to the Gentiles,
that you may be an instrument of salvation
to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 13)
What Stephen Colbert, Conan Obrien, and the late Mr. Rogers point us to is light and Love.
If we look at this tragedy in Boston with the eyes of faith we can see that the light does overcome the darkness, the people of Boston were not destroyed by the explosions... if we "look for the helpers", we see that good people rose up.
The Gentiles were delighted when they heard this
and glorified the word of the Lord.
All who were destined for eternal life came to believe,
and the word of the Lord continued to spread
through the whole region.
This is only a tragedy if we fail to laugh in the face of death, know the answer to the question "Why does God allow this to happen?", and finally become the people of light and of love that he created us to be.
We do have a good Shepherd leading us and showing us the way to love...
“My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.
No one can take them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all,
and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand."