Reflection of Cardinal Seán O’Malley, OFM Cap.
Archbishop of Boston
Healing Our City: An Interfaith Service
Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Boston
April 18, 2013
My dear brothers, sisters and friends.
On behalf of our Catholic community, I wish to welcome all of you here to the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. It is an honor to have our President, the Governor, and our Mayor here with us this morning. We are grateful to Governor Patrick for initiating this ecumenical and interfaith prayer service. We are delighted that Metropolitan Methodius and so many leaders from the various churches and faith communities could join us here today.
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has asked me to communicate to you his sentiments of love and support. The Holy Father invokes God’s peace upon our dead, consolation upon the suffering and God’s strength upon all those engaged in the continuing work of relief and response. The Holy Father prays that we will be united in the resolve not to be overcome by evil, but to combat evil with good, working together to build an ever more just, free and secure society for generations to come.
This year’s Patriots’ Day celebrations were marred by an act of senseless violence that has caused all of us great shock and pain. It made us relive the horror of the September 11th terrorist attack and is a stark reminder of the darkness that can lurk in the human heart and produce such evil. And yet the same tragedy brought us together as a community like nothing else ever could. The generous and courageous response of so many assures us that there resides in people’s hearts a goodness that is incredibly selfless. We saw that when summoned by great events we can be remarkably committed to the well-being of others, even total strangers. We become a stronger people, a more courageous people, and a more noble people. The police, emergency workers and even bystanders and passers-by did not hesitate to put themselves in harm’s way to help the injured and the frightened.
Our presence here is an act of solidarity with those who lost their lives or were injured in the explosions and an expression of our desire to support them and their families and loved ones.
This Patriots’ Day shakes us out of our complacency and indifference and calls us to focus on the task of building a civilization that is based on love, justice, truth and service. We do not want to risk losing the legacy of those first patriots who were willing to lay down their lives for the common good. We must overcome the culture of death by promoting a culture of life, a profound respect for each and every human being made in the image and likeness of God, and we must cultivate a desire to give our lives in the service of others.
Last week, I was in Galilee on the Mount of the Beatitudes with 30 priests from Boston. There we prayed together and listened to the very Gospel that was read for us here this morning. The Sermon on the Mount is a description of the life of the people gathered by and around the Lord. Often in the Gospels, we can see the contrast between the crowd and the community. The crowd is made up of self-absorbed individuals, each one focused on his or her own interests in competition with the conflicting projects of others. A community is where people come to value each other, and find their own identity in being part of something bigger than themselves, working together for the common good.
The Sermon on the Mount, in many ways, is the Constitution of the people called to live a new life. Jesus gives us a new way to deal with offenses, by reconciliation. Jesus gives us a new way to deal with violence, by nonviolence. He gives us a new way to deal with money, by sharing and providing for those in need. Jesus gives us a new way to deal with leadership, by drawing upon the gift of every person, each one a child of God.
In the face of the present tragedy, we must ask ourselves what kind of a community do we want to be, what are the ideals that we want to pass on to the next generation. It cannot be violence, hatred and fear. The Jewish people speak of Tikkun Olam, “repairing the world.” God has entrusted us with precisely that task, to repair our broken world. We cannot do it as a collection of individuals; we can only do it together, as a community, as a family. Like every tragedy, Monday’s events are a challenge and an opportunity for us to work together with a renewed spirit of determination and solidarity and with the firm conviction that love is stronger than death.
May ours be the sentiments of St. Francis of Assisi, who prayed:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.