Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Stones of Remembrance and Five Victims

I'm a Christian. 

One of the bedrock tenets of Christianity is forgiveness.

Asking forgiveness for our own deeds; giving our own forgiveness for deeds done against us; praying for forgiveness from G/d for all who trespass.

This forgiveness does not mean that those who transgress are not to held accountable for their actions. It means that any accounting be done for justice and mercy, not retribution and vengeance.

Since the bombing at the Boston Marathon I've been trying to pray, sincerely, for forgiveness for those responsible.

Being a lifetime Bostonian, someone who occasionally stood in the crowd to see the finishers, this crime has relevance for me. It has especial resonance because, when I worked for the old John Hancock Insurance company, I worked as a volunteer on, and around, the finish line of the race.  

I wanted to pray for that forgiveness, but kept feeling for vengeance. Once the two brothers were identified it was even harder to ask for that forgiveness.

This bombing was not an unimaginable act, for it was conceived and acted upon. But it was heinous, hateful, odious, abominable, totally reprehensible.  More so, parochially,  since it was my birth city.  Now I had faces to see as those responsible.
And I wanted so, as a Christian, to pray for that forgiveness. But what I kept feeling for was that revenge.

In the "modern" Christian churches that embrace it, the rite of Confirmation, by those who have attained "the age of reason," the corporal purpose is a conscious reaffirmation of one's membership in the church, and the responsibilities that entails. (We'll leave for another day the theological underpinnings).

At my church, during this past Saturday night's meeting with our pastor, the candidates for Confirmation & their sponsors made a small memorial table up in the sanctuary for the 3 people killed by blast at the Marathon finish line and the MIT policeman shot and killed by the bombers.

At regular services on Sunday all were asked to place a pebble  on the table with the memorial, instead of flowers, in the tradition of the Jewish Stones of Remembrance.

One of the sponsors told that, as part of the group's prayers after setting up the table, they struck a bell 4 times, once for each victim. However, once the bell was struck only a glancing blow and did not ring true, so had to be struck again.  She said one of the teenage candidates told her that it was a reminder that there were five victims killed as a result of this tragedy, not four.

That teenager had grasped the essence of her responsibility as a Christian, to forgive.  Something I had found so hard to do. That fifth person was also of G/d's family, as are all of us.

That desire for vengeance is still in me.

But now, I hope, I can truly pray for forgiveness.

I'm a Christian

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