When the darkness is most intense...

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Yesterday I posted Rev. John Hudson's reflection on the Boston Marathon tragedy.  Today I offer you the thoughts of my friend Fr. Walter Woods, pastor of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish in Acton, MA.  

For all who are celebrating the Easter season, this one line from Walter's reflection captures the response of the faithful:  
The light shines most clearly 
when the darkness is most intense.

As of this writing on Tuesday, it’s still too soon to know who bombed the Boston Marathon finish line yesterday afternoon. We know that this act was designed to kill and maim innocent people. But it gets even worse. The Boston Marathon is the top-ranking marathon, and attracts the best long-distance runners in the world along with thousands of other competitors from near and far. Taking place on the Patriots’ Day holiday, it is a festive time for competitors and spectators, people old and young, local folks and visitors from virtually everywhere else. It’s a day when everyone feels safe and everyone has fun. Marathon Monday is one of those times when hospitality, trust, kindness, and celebration are there for all to share and enjoy.
Monday’s bombing sought to destroy these precious aspects of our humanity and our community along with the lives of innocent people. This act was intensely evil both because of the damage it inflicted and also on account of the cold and heartless calculation that went into it. And for what?
This awful event draws attention to evil in persons and in actions. Moreover, when public safety experts remind us that it is not possible to remove all risk and every threat from such “soft targets,” we know that this applies to life in general. Evil and risk go with human life. But so also do grace and goodness.
One of the blessings of our Catholic faith is that it pays close attention to both these aspects of human life. It never underestimates either the capacity for evil or the power to do good that resides within the human heart. It knows that sudden or calculated destruction and opportunities to act in a noble and generous way occur for us all. The work of first responders and bystanders on Monday shows just how good people can be, even in the most awful of circumstances. The light shines most clearly when the darkness is most intense.
If we reflect on such terrible events in the light of our faith, we might come away with a new appreciation of human helplessness, despite all good efforts, and our consequent need for a Savior. Having had his own encounter with cruelty and death, and being lifted up three days later, our Lord is well able to lift us up out of destruction, grief, and helplessness. This puts the bad stuff in its place, gives us reason to live in hope, and sets us free from fear and anything else that would quench the God-given flame of goodness within us. Is this not what we celebrate this Easter season?
I refuse to give in to fear or to bow to anyone who would terrorize us and harm our community—or anyone’s community. Yes, of course we ought to take all prudent precautions on behalf of safety. But above all, we ought to take to heart the Lord’s promise “to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days” (Luke 1: 74-75). That’s our salvation, our call, our grace and our hope. Together let us embrace it anew.
As we continue to sort out our reflections and feelings, I pray for those who died or were injured in the blasts and all their loved ones. I fervently hope that law enforcement personnel will correctly identify whoever is responsible for this crime and pursue them until they get the full measure of justice that they deserve. Heart-felt appreciation goes out to public safety personnel and first responders, nurses, EMTs, physicians, and everyone else who cared for the people hurt on Monday. I salute those who reached out to strangers with offers of lodging and other acts of kindness. I am thankful that so many returned safe and sound to their loved ones on Monday evening. Finally I pray that the human bonds of hospitality, trust, compassion, and community—injured but not destroyed on Monday—will be restored among us, for Boston Marathon days to come and all other days of the year.
Fr. Walter


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