To be made in God’s image’
Jimmy Kelly | Tuesday, April 16, 2013
My uncle was three-tenths of a mile from the finish line when the bombs went off.
It was Marathon Monday. Thousands of people trained for days, building up muscle mass and endurance in hopes of not hitting the wall when they climb the infamous “Heartbreak Hill” 20 miles into the race. Everyone in Boston has a story when it comes to the Marathon; at home, I usually endure the annual ritual of listening to my dad reminiscing about how he snuck in and ran the entire 26.2 miles without a number. Even if you never ran the race, you probably sat down in lawn chairs along the route and cheered on the runners at least once in your life. Nobody cares about who is in the lead or bets on who will win; the Boston Marathon is first and foremost an opportunity for people to go the distance, to achieve the challenging and exciting goal of crossing that finish line at Copley Square. The Marathon is a celebration of unity, with people all over the Boston area coming together to root for their loved ones, their friends and just about any other person running the race. It’s the one time of the year where people come together and exhibit brotherly love for one another.
This celebration of unity was shattered by explosions of discord, what was once an annual ritual of sweat and tears had now become a living nightmare of blood and fire. Spectators frantically whipped out their phones, cluttering the airwaves as they tried to reach out to family and friends. As the smoke settled, a cloud of fear and confusion took its place as bystanders scattered, trying to avoid any more potential blasts that would kindle the raging chaos.
When I first heard about the bombings, I immediately called my parents to see if they were alright. My friends and I texted like crazy, hoping that nobody we knew was hurt. Through Facebook, I found out that my uncle and his family, though “wicked close” to the first explosion, were unharmed and found each other within an hour of the debacle. In the end, everyone I knew was safe and sound, but I couldn’t help but feel anger burning up inside me.
A tragedy really doesn’t hit you unless it happens close to home. I remember 9/11 and Newtown, and I was just as saddened as anyone else was. But this? A terror attack in Boston? The city that my grandparents were born and raised in? The one place on earth that my family so dearly loves? When I first heard about the explosion, I didn’t shed a tear, but thought the same thing every other die-hard Bay Stater thought: somebody just messed with the wrong city.
Now, I am one of the most cheerful and patient guys around, but this disaster pushed my limits. When I had to lector for dorm mass Monday night, my emotions got the better of me as I injected the wrath of God in an otherwise inspiring reading about St. Stephen. Reciting the psalm was anything but joyous, and don’t even bother asking me what the priest said in the homily. When it comes to times like these, one feels more inclined to curse God than praise Him.
Then, during the Our Father, we recited one of the most profound lines ever recorded: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
It was at this time that I remembered God’s call to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. As a Catholic, I recognize that we are all called to communion with God, to serve and love each other and become one family. Whenever someone murders another human being, he or she is essentially committing fratricide. In doing so, the murderer not only drives himself away from that communion, but also causes others to be driven away from each other, many grieve, some want revenge, others lose their faith in God and humanity. Just as the sin of Cain against Abel led to more murder, so too does every sin launch a ripple effect that strains the bonds of spiritual kinship between all people.
Despite my hardened heart, I attended a prayer service at Geddes Hall in hope that God would move me to believe and not doubt, to hope and not despair, to love and not hate. At the service, I witnessed nearly everyone there exhibiting those virtues, they praised God through song, voiced their hopes through prayer, and offered each other love and support through hugs and reflection. Most of all, one person even mentioned that we must pray for the perpetrators, just as Jesus commanded in the Lord’s Prayer. For once, I saw how God is present in people of good will, I saw how in Christ, we can better show people what it means to be made in God’s image.
I am grateful that none of my family or friends died or were injured in the Boston Marathon bombings, but I realize that this is not the case with everyone. To those who are deeply affected by this tragedy, I cannot begin to fathom how sad or angry you must feel. If my story cannot bring you to turn your hate into love, then perhaps the examples of the heroes in Boston will. From policemen and paramedics to runners and passers-by, many a Bostonian still managed to show their love for others immediately following the explosions. Just hours afterward, hundreds of people offered their homes for runners and others to stay in. In the face of discord, they showed that we are still united in the Bostonian family. If our family back home and the ND family can mend all wounds and bring everyone closer together, then we, God willing, can hope to bring everyone in the human family into deeper relationships out of love for one another.