The news from Boston started appearing just as I was about to go offline for the night. I haven't been sleeping so well lately, so I tried to pray for everyone, those who were killed, those who were hurt, the scared, those responding. I started to think about how fragile it all is; in my own life-moment before moving here to Italy, one of the most refreshing little islands of peace was my few minutes of standing at the corner of Dartmouth and Boylston at six in the morning, waiting for the bus that would take me to South Boston for the seven o'clock Mass at St. Brigid's.
With Boston still on my mind and in my prayer, I took a lot of comfort from St. Augustine in the Office of Readings this morning as he preaches on psalm 149: Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Homo novus novit canticum novum...qui ergo novit novam vitam amare, novit canticum novum cantare
"The new human being knows the new song...therefore the one who has learned to love new life knows how to sing the new song."
We pray and grieve with everyone in Boston today as they have to sing the old song of sadness, death, and loss, of lives forever compromised by meaningless violence.
It feels like the old song is everywhere lately. Whoever is in charge of North Korea is singing the old song of domination, repression, and power. Dr. Gosnell is on trial for singing the old song of exploiting the poor and the weak, of regarding the vulnerable as dispensable for profit. And the world hesitates to take notice of his atrocities, for fear of how it might cut through its own cherished lies.
Where is God in all this? Where is Easter?
God is here. He is receiving all the victims of our violence into his gentle peace and mercy. When we die, will we be humble enough to let them wash our feet and receive us? Or will that encounter make proud souls push themselves into a hell of eternal shame? God, in Jesus Christ, is suffering in all the hurt, the maimed, and the poor, such that our humanity--in all the misery we insist upon for each other with our sin--might have, in his divinity, a path through our suffering to the blessing of new life.
God knocks softly at the door of the heart of whoever bombed the Boston Marathon. He knocks at the door of the heart of whoever is in power in North Korea. He knocks at the door of the heart of Dr. Gosnell and at the hearts of all the practical and intellectual architects of the culture of death.
And God knocks softly at the door of our hearts too, inviting us to the Easter faith: Jesus Christ, in the very humanity borrowed from us through the consent of our Blessed Mother, has defeated sin and death. And by this victory, a new humanity has become available to us, a new life that God is just dying (literally) to give us. Our Easter faith is that in this new humanity we know--even if it we are only dimly aware of it--how to sing a new song.