Last year, the Boston Marathon bombings set the scandal of suffering and beauty down the street from me. Friends stumbling with ears ringing, wounds being dressed by flags, chapels crowded with runners still wearing their foil shock blankets—whether seen, heard, or felt, suffering was experienced with every sense, and yet there was no promise of it ever making sense.
Then a kind of Spring came as spectators became heroes near the finish line, old friend friends who I thought forgot me long ago called to see if I was still alive, runners donated blood at hospitals, and whether shoes, rosaries, or prayers, we all left something at the Copley memorial. In a city where normally no one looks anyone in the eye, in the days afterward, every glance was imbued with gratitude that the other person was fine, with charity if they were not, and with compassion because not none of us was.
I remember even taking stock of myself during a phone call that day, and I just felt utterly guilty when I realized I had no wounds, no tears, no dramatic stories to share. Why did my friends feel the street shake, while I was safe miles away: experiencing things from a distance, like everything else in a scholar's life? When my prayer asked, "Where is my suffering? Why do have to feel so fine? To feel nothing?" I just had the feeling that I was missing out on something. My dry eyes could not see what my friends' eyes clouded with tears could. Though, with time the shock and dam fell and it came to me too.
I would never say that suffering is "necessary" for such beauty to come to light, but when I remember the unprecedented strong yet tender love that followed the bombings, it's hard to say why exactly that's not the case.
A year has passed, this pain pricks our memories once again, and I ask myself a hard question: have we once again fallen so far and become so numb that it would take a bomb to make us grateful for one another and our city? Has our love become so weak that it only exists as a reaction to evil? I pray that's not the case, because that would be a tragedy worse than the one we already suffered. The fact is that we are all missing out on something—everything is gradually being taken away from us. That's the sad but true revelation of the Marathon; so please, let us be grateful for everything today even as it is leaving us, because it was given to us for some joyful reason at the present moment.
My heart goes out to Boston today, because in many ways I found it there and left it there one year ago today, and there's nothing I'd love more than to go for a long walk down to Copley right now to find it again. Κύριε ελέησον ημάς.