A Time for Peace

The streets of Boston are safe tonight and I can imagine that there will be much celebrating in the streets of Beantown.

An amazing law enforcement effort to capture the suspect and that they were able to take him alive. We are all indebted to their service and need to remember this the next time they seek pay raises.

Now the question that remains is whether we can really move towards peace as a country? Can we move into a place where we value the safety of our citizens, but also the dignity of human life?

Massachusetts does not offer the death penalty, but this is a federal issue and therefore the death penalty may be invoked by the powers that be, acting on our behalf.

And that, after all Boston and our country has been through, should disturb us.

We deserve better. The world needs us to be an example here and terrorism needs to see that we do not act as they do. We value human life and those principles need to be upheld.

Vengeance, even when we think it can be justified, is never OK. We cannot latch on to hatred, but must always cling to love. Love of country, love of life, love of justice. Justice will punish, but will never hate.

Those that died will not be brought back by our taking of another life. It will only turn us into what the terrorists hope we become.

We can honor those who have been lost best, by not taking revenge in the taking of another life. We’ve already killed one of the two terrorists and that’s a tragedy, albeit not necessarily intentional. Now we need to get information from the second terrorist and lock him up for a long time, making him restore justice long-term.

The death penalty, the taking of another human life is just one more form of violence that we should not tolerate. We are one of the few countries that still impart this penalty. The others? You’ve got the world’s great dictatorships and autocracies: Iran, Zimbabwe, China, North Korea, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Egypt, Ethiopia, Cuba, Belarus. Then you have many undeveloped countries: Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Congo, Chad, Yemen, Guinea, amd Bangladesh.

So who’s left among developed countries? India, Japan, Nigeria, Uganda, Botswana, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Kuwait, Oman, Lebanon, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Iraq.

And of course, the United States.

That’s not a club I want my country to be a member of. The United States is also the only G-8 country to use the death penalty.

We’re better than this. We cannot afford to be associated with barbarism, under the guise of state sanctioned justified vengeance.

We deserve more. We are far more resilient than simply moving into murder. Violence begets violence.

Can we finally stop the violence? If so, we need to take the first step.

So let us pray for justice that is humane and places us in an honorable place of defending life. All life, even life that we don’t like and are angry with. For that courage to seek peace, to meet violence with peace, is where we must turn this day.

A Prayer for Peace

The sound of a bomb
The screaming, the running

Boston cries as do I
For the senselessness of it all

God cries too
As he did at Lazurus’ grave
He does again for the little one taken too soon
For the others dead and injured.

He cries too that someone sins gravely
Does not value life, or perhaps is in too much pain themselves.
He cries but does not hate.

That is hard for us.
Hard to imagine loving a killer, a murderer.
He carefully planned this
And it sickens me beyond all health.

So I pray for peace
Peace in my heart
For my prayer for peace must start with me
With my moving towards peace and not hatred
Not more violence
Not more death
But a quiet justice
and a vision of God making all things new again.

It is a righteous anger that we all feel
But our response needs to come from a deeper place.
One that calls us into a better way of being.
A way that ends violence, or at least ends our thoughts of it.

Boston is often a sleepy city.
I have found it to be peaceful,
The harbor beckoning me to it’s boats
It’s Common calling me to sit and wonder at God’s creation all around.
It’s history reminding me of those who longed for peace, for freedom
From tyranny.

So my prayer begins with me
For me to be changed
To bring me to a place of healing
So that I might help others heal
and they help others heal too.

That is God’s work
May we all be called to do it.


The Sound of Silence

I’ve been quiet the last few days. I’ve been busy in general as the semester is beginning to wind down and a few other projects have ended up on my desk.

But I’ve mostly been quiet because I have taken some time to pray in the aftermath of the Boston Bombings. It brought back many memories of that horrible day of September 11th and I went through the same motions that I did that day in New York.

On September 11th I did a quick count of people who I knew worked downtown. Slowly they began to check in. I thought I had gotten out of the tragedy without knowing anyone who could have died.

Then 2 friends and a distant relative of my wife’s ended up to be among the dead.

Boston is a place that I have many friends. Between folks I know from the Paulist Center on Park Street to others who have happened to move there, I began my mental list. I started to cull facebook right away to see if people had posted on their whereabouts and sure enough many had.

Paulist Father Frank Desiderio was headed over the finish line to meet a friend who was in the race that he was tracking when he heard the first explosion on Boston Common. I continued to see other updates. Some people had been right near the site earlier in the day, but were nowhere near when the bombs went off.

After getting a text from a former spiritual directee who I hadn’t heard from in some time, I thought all was fine. I was still upset at the horror and still was sorrowful for the dead, the injured and I thought about those who got stopped before being able to finish what should have been a crowning achievement. While there were bigger concerns on the day than finishing a race, I felt bad for those who trained so hard only to be told that they were not going to finish–their only goal for the day.

Then I saw later in the day that my dear friend Donna sent me this note via facebook:

I am so proud of my sister-in-law who will be running the Boston Marathon for the first time on Monday. Send her blessings and lots of energy! She has trained hard and we will be there to see her cross the finish line.

I was just about to call when I saw an email:

We were enjoying the runners coming in as we were close to the finish line. All of a sudden there was a blast in the building across the street from us and the windows blew out, smoke everywhere. Within five seconds there was another blast in the building to the left of the first blast There was screaming and slight panic with people running off the bleachers. Immediately I was able to reach (a family member) who was still at the car (went to feed the meter). I told him what happened because he didn’t hear the blast He stayed with the car which was great because there was no more phone service. We knew that (another family member) was with his grandparents and eventually we made contact via texting and about ten minutes later we ran into them at a crossing walk. We were so happy to see them.

They found out later that all of her sister-in-law’s teammates were safe and had found their way home.

Wow! That was close. She was right there, right across the street from all of the horror. I kept thinking if she had come from the other direction she’d have been right there in the midst of it all.

Out of the chaos, can we find peace? Indeed it is difficult to do so. This reminds me so much of the Atlanta bombing at the Olympics, a place where people from all over the world come to compete in peace. Much like the Boston Marathon, peace was disrupted where there had once only been joy.

We are indeed far from the kingdom of God these days. Which means that we have to keep working hard for peace, for forgiveness, for love to prevail. We need no further to look than to the runners themselves, many who ran an extra two miles to donate blood.

The communion of saints ran in the streets of Boston with blood coursing in their veins pumped by a big beating heart for others. Blood poured out for others who had their blood unjustly poured out in the madness of the day.

As I sit today in prayer, I am grateful to be remembering all those who helped others, who live not for themselves but for others. For first responders and hospital workers. I’m reminded that my spiritual directee who I was worried about is indeed a nurse and I’m sure she had a busy and horrifying day.

But I also sit disturbed by the sounds that should bring disturbance to all of us, but often leave us stuck in the silence. May God move us into action to take us into those places to work for peace –even if those are places where we might not want to go.

Tonight, I will be meeting with people looking to revamp an organization I volunteer some time for. There’s been a lot of anger and hurt feelings on the inside. And I don’t have time for it. It’s time for us to come together in peace in all matters, to listen to one another and to keep non-violence primary in our lives. Can we hear the hearts of others deep within our own in the silence of our hearts as we pray in the quiet hours of our day? Those important times when we can listen to our God’s stirrings in our lives.

After all, what good would it do us to do otherwise?