When I heard that the 8-year-old victim of the marathon bombings had just received First Communion, I thought immediately of Christina-Taylor Green. She's the 9-year-old who was murdered in Jared Loughner's 2011 rampage in Tucson. She had recently undergone that rite, as well -- she, too, had an unforgettable smile. It's the look of innocent joy, an encounter with hope. She was prone to thanksgiving: "We are so blessed. We have the best life," she would say to her family.
Christina-Taylor's name and now Martin's become for us a meditation. Not necessarily of a political nature -- the testimony of their truncated lives calls us deeper. The photo of Martin in a classroom holding up a sign that says, "No more hurting people. Peace." has understandably gone viral. But merely collectively "Liking" the sentiment lets us off easy.
Jarring attacks on innocents cry out for us to do something. To really and truly build a culture of life, as Boston Archbishop Sean O'Malley urged at the prayer service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross three days after the marathon ended in death and destruction.
'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," he said.
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," he went on.
We are reminded, too, of our common bond: vulnerability. This should compel us to service and support, to friendship and love. And it's not easy -- a mere donation to the Red Cross is not the true charity that we're called to.
While many scrambled to find a motive for the attacks, Rev. Roberto Miranda of a Baptist church in nearby Roxbury named the problem: "As we have confirmed so graphically this week, wickedness does exist in this world," he said at the Holy Cross prayer service.