'The skies,’ the President told us, 'were darkened’ this weekend ‘by an attack on the civilized world.’ We are at war, the Pope told us; ‘a third world war, fought piecemeal, with crimes, massacres, and destruction,’ And so we turn to God: the merciful and strong, and beg for an end to the violence and the weeping, to the darkness and the death and the sin.
Then this was the homily I preached:
On Saturday morning I had breakfast with a couple friends at IHOP on Soldiers’ Field Road. The topic of conversation was the terrorist attacks in Paris the night before. We each wondered, out loud, with mildly quaking voices, whether this presaged a different way of life on the streets of Boston.
“Oh, no,” I sagely observed. “That’s all so far away.” “Yeah,” one friend responded, pointing out the window down Soldiers Field Road.
Less than a mile down that street before you get to Harvard Stadium there’s the Day’s Hotel on the right. It’s where Hamza al-Ghamdi and Ahmed al-Ghamdi stayed the night before they took a taxi to Terminal C at Logan and boarded United Flight 175 and took seats 9C and 9D and with guns and knives slammed the plane into the first tower.
He just stared down the street. And, I confess, I didn’t finish my pancakes.
We live, my brothers, in an increasingly dangerous world. And, from the ISIS snuff videos on Youtube, to the crashing airliner in Egypt, to the fresh blood on the streets of Paris, it may be getting even more dangerous in the days to come.
And it’s not even far away anymore.
So what’s a Christian to do, in the face of this alien terror? Perhaps two hints from the Sacred Liturgy this morning.
The first is the awful story of those who seduced the Israelites into accepting the traditions of the Gentiles, to hide their circumcision, abandon the holy covenant, and (and I love this phrase) “sell themselves to wrongdoing.” They sacrificed to idols, profaned the sabbath and finally, they built pagan altars. And anyone who remained faithful, was killed.
So what did the faithful remnant do? They “resolved in their hearts not to eat anything unclean; they preferred to die rather than to be defiled with unclean food
or to profane the holy covenant; (and I love this phrase even more) and they did die.”
Our generation is not the first to face terror, to face the wickedness that forsakes the truth, oppresses men and kills the just man. There have been Hitlers and Atillas before. And since the days of the martyrs, the only way to defeat their terror is to laugh in its face, clinging to the truth with the full confidence of the children of God and the sure and certain hope that whatever Cross God might send us on Good Friday is but a prelude to the Paschal glory which awaits the faithful.
Which leads us to the second lesson of the scriptures for those who live in a terrifying world. I watched the whole 911 horror unfold in my office at the Bishop’s Conference in Washington D.C., from which we saw the plane go into the Pentagon. And then there was the anthrax scare, as we shared a post office with the U.S. Capitol. It was so bad, that several days later I was sitting in Dennis McManus’ office talking about biotoxins when the radio began to blare: “This is the Emergency Broadcast System. This is not a test. Repeat this is not a test.” I have never been so relieved to hear that a tornado had touched down a mile down the street and that I was not going to start to bleed from the eyes with malignant biotoxins.
For such are the terrors of our world today, as those still hospitalized in Paris, or those still crippled from the Marathon or those still mourning their loved ones on that plane will tell you. We are often like the blind man by the side of the road, crying out to the Lord: “Have pity on us!” “Jesus, have pity on us!” “Kyrie, eleison!”
In the end, it’s all we can do.
But its also all that we really need to do.
For he, through whom all things were made, looks patiently at us and says: “What do you want me to do for you?”
And he, who will judge the living and the dead, looks patiently again and says: “Peace…your faith has saved you.”