A Prayer for Brussels

It is all so distressingly familiar. On a perfectly beautiful, sunny morning beside the sparkling bay, enjoying the start and promise of a new day with gratitude to God for the gift of life, a daughter calls: “Turn on CNN. It has happened again.”

It is so distressingly familiar: innocent men and women going about the mundane business of living, suddenly dead, grievously wounded, a mother in the bombed airport crying out “Where is my baby? Where is my baby?”, in the smoke and chaos after the bomb detonated people running for safety while deep in our consciousness we are slowly acknowledging that there is no safety, anywhere.

And, once again the questions we cannot not ask: “Why? Why is this happening? Why do they hate us so? How is a hatred so profound, so overwhelming that young men and now women too, mostly young, are willing to die inflicting suffering and death on their fellow human beings?”

One thing we must not do is answer hatred with hatred. it would be so easy to do that, so natural. We would love nothing more than meaningful retaliation. And we must not conclude that an entire people, a religion, is guilty.

The mother crying out for her child in the Brussels airport prompts me, in the middle of Holy Week, three days before Good Friday, to think about the Pieta, Michelangelo’s masterpiece standing inside St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Years ago, when I first saw it, I stood looking at it for a long time, drawn by the eloquent expression of human pathos, a young mother who has just watched her dear son die, executed with inhuman cruelty, his lifeless body lying across her lap, looking at him and remembering how she held him there as an infant. I am reminded that as Christians we follow and trust one who was a “Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” and that we know about humanity’s ability to despoil the goodness and beauty of creation in acts of cruelty and evil. And I remind myself that Easter is coming, not only this Sunday, but always, forever, Easter is coming, that death is not the last word spoken about any one of us, or the whole human race and sweep of human history. Love is. Life is.

I turn gratefully to Psalm 46 and words that have comforted and encouraged God’s people in the past.

“God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though
the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in
the heart of the sea….
God is in the midst of the city: it
shall not be moved”

Oh dear God, dear God, again we come to you, numb with grief, burdened by resignation. Again we come to you with the eternal question, Why? and with a new awareness that there are no easy answers.

Because of what we will remember this Friday we know that you share our grief, that you have watched a beloved son die. We know that you grieve with every mother and father, husband and wife, brother and sister, partner and friend. We pray for all of them, dear God. And we ask you to surround them with the comfort of love, yours and ours. Give them, and us, a sense that you are in the midst of this with us in this “city that shall not be moved”.

We pray for public officials everywhere, for our President and Secretary of State, for our police officials and military, and for all who work to keep us safe.

Dear God, give us courage and resolve and as we approach the day your own son died, remind us that, although it is not here yet, Easter is coming.

Amen

 

Comments

  1. Lynn DeJong says:

    Thank you for your wise words at such a difficult time. Easter is coming.

  2. jack macmullan says:

    THANK YOU JOHN

  3. Amen and Amen.

  4. Thank you.

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