Monday, April 22, 2013

To Announce A Year of the Lord's Favor ...

Crucifix in the
Abbey Church
of Saint Remi,
We have a new pope and there is, hopefully, a new breeze coming through the Church, a wind--a Holy Spirit driven Wind--that stirs our hearts with a renewed focus on the Gospel and bringing the Gospel to all in need.  Here is a proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ--a message of hope, forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace in the face of the hatred and violence--signs of the evil one--that threaten our world. 
Jesuit scholastic, Michael Rogers, just a few months shy of his upcoming ordination, posted on his Facebook page this letter to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving Boston Marathon Bomber.  I want to bring it to your attention as an example of contemporary Christian spirituality.   I had wanted to compare it to the letter of Dom Christian de Chergé, the prior of a community of Cistercian (Trappist) monks at Tibhirine in Algergia, who were murdered by Islamic terrorists in 1996.  I thought I had printed Dom Christian’s letter—which I think is among the greatest spiritual documents of the twentieth century—elsewhere in this blog, but I hadn’t.  So I will post that in my next posting.  Mr. Roger’s letter is not, to my mind, of quite the same depth as Dom Christian’s but then Mr. Roger is both younger and was not himself a target of the terrorism.  Mr. Roger’s letter is something far more eloquent than I could have produced and I think it does give us something to think about in terms of how we, as Christians, face the awful questions of violence and terror as well as how we address the role of religion—for good and for evil—in our world.  
Dear Dzhokhar,
You don’t know me, but you tried to kill my family.
You couldn’t have known, but my brother ran bandit in the marathon and trained for months. My sister-in-law was an amazing and supportive wife, as she always is, and was ready to run the last five miles with him. Your bomb was at the finish line that they were trying to cross.
My mother, father and sister were waiting for them at the finish line. You didn’t know it, but my mother thinks that she saw you down there. My sister is only three years younger than you, and you set off a bomb in front of her.
You don’t know me, but you tried to kill some friends of mine.
One of my best and closest friends was working in the store in front of which you or your brother laid down a bomb. That bomb exploded, and gave her the worst day of her life.
I was a high school teacher, and your bomb wounded one of my most promising students with shrapnel.
Dear Dzhokhar, you tried to destroy a community that I left behind for Rome, but from which I draw so much of my strength and identity.
You killed a child who was a part of the community who made me the man I am today. Martin may have grown up to be a BC High boy...and his family is well loved in the community which surrounds that school.
You tried to drive a city which gave me courage in the face of cancer into complete and utter fear. But you tried to do this to a city that knew how to make a 10-year-old unafraid.
Dear Dzhokhar, you may have crossed the threshold of the building in which I lived to compete in an athletic event, but we have never met, and you tried to kill my family, a friend, my students, and destroy my community.
Dear Dzhokhar, you failed. Did you ever think that you would make it out? The U.S. captured Bin Laden and Saddam...there was no chance you would escape. This is not the measure of your success, though. Dear Dzhokhar, you failed because Boston was neither bowed nor afraid. You set off a bomb, and the city gave blood for victims. You escaped initial capture and the city opened its doors to strangers. You were at large and making more bombs, and we gathered in prayer at Garvey Park and the Cathedral. You went on a rampage, and people stayed home in an orderly fashion and opened their homes to the police during the search. Dear Dzhokhar, you failed, because light cast out the darkness, and the man who knew that his boat just didn’t look right wasn’t afraid to call it in to the police.
Dear Dzhokhar, for all of this, I can’t hate you. Today I thought about the fact that you are only are just a kid. You must have been so afraid today. You were a victim like so many are victims, you were brought something you shouldn’t have been brought into because you likely didn’t and couldn’t know any better.
I am glad that you are going to prison, and I hope that you will have many long years there in Supermax in Colorado. I hope that no one I love will ever be threatened by you again, but I can’t hate you.
I can’t hate you because whatever you brought into Boston was enough hate for a good long while, I won’t and can’t hate any more.
I can’t hate you because I remember being 19, and I thought many things were a good idea that weren’t. I never would have went where you were with that, but I was certainly not an adult at 19.
I can’t hate you because, even though you did unspeakable things...somehow you are still my brother and your death can never be my gain.
I can’t hate you, and not just because I am a Catholic, and a Christian, and because in a couple of months I will be a priest, I am a human and I simply can’t hate you.
Dear Dzhokhar, I still have hope for you.
The rest of your life will be in prison. I have seen men change their lives there. I hope that you won’t be executed, because I know that we can hold you, safely, for the rest of your life.
I can’t say what your story might be there, but I know that I, as a Christian, and you, as a Muslim, believe God to be I can’t help but have hope for you.
Dear Dzhokhar, you’re a kid. I can’t hate you, or fear you. I am glad you are in custody, I am glad you can’t hurt anyone else or yourself anymore, but I can’t hate you...and I won't fear you.
Dear Dzhokhar, I will pray for you. Next year, when my friend and my brother cross that finish line on Boylston, your brother’s cause will have lost for good; but I will pray that you will know, somehow still, the love that my brother, sister-in-law, mother, father, sister, friends and students all have given me.
Dear Dzhokhar, I will pray for you. When the first pitch is thrown on Patriots Day at Fenway, I will pray that somehow you will know joy...the joy that makes us fully human and offers the possibility of real repentance...the joy that Red Sox baseball fills me with every year.
Dear Dzhokhar, I will pray for you next year when the first shot is fired in the annual reenactment of the battle of Lexington and Concord, that you will come to know that peace and love are the only ways in which world will ever be changed.
Dear Dzhokhar, I don’t and can’t hate you. I am glad you are in custody, but you are just a kid, and you lost. I will love and pray for you, because somehow your sin was turned for good, and my community and the people I love will only be stronger in the end.
Dear Dzhokhar,

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