Sitting here at 2:00 am, watching live footage of the scene in Boston, my mind is a rapid-fire collage of tragedy and bravery. Scenes of the marathon are fresh-pressed, certainly, but thrown in the mix are frames of everything from 9/11 to Hiroshima, from Mcveigh and Kaczynski to Cain and Abel, from Eden to Sandy Hook. Humanity’s story is ever one of Holocausts and heroism, and this tense back-and-forth of wills is, in essence, our fundamental state of existence here on earth.
John Paul II spoke of “historical man”, that is, mankind after the fall but in the light of Redemption, and we see this fleshed out not only in every newsfed tragedy or in every epic novel throughout time, but in every page of Sacred Scripture, as well. As often as a news source reports on “The Suspect” and Scripture give us Paul’s lament of “what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do”(Rom 7:15), in response, a Facebook pass-around gives us shots of people running towards a crisis and Scripture shows Christ saying, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). Humanity seems to be constantly in play between the fires set by sin and the moths who choose to help put them out.
However, here’s the thing: There truly is no such thing as us and them. They did not start the flames and we did not run to put them out.
In reality, each of us is a moth, in transit through life, carrying our own, personally cherished book of matches. While it is true that, at the core, both Hitler and I have been guilty of fanning the flames of sin, it is also true that both Hitler and I were made in the image and likeness of God. “All we, like sheep, have gone astray”, but no amount of straying can change the fold we came from and can always return to. In one way or another, every Achilles has a heel, but every heel was made to walk on water.
As depraved and gruesome as Kermit Gosnell has been, I don’t for a second want him to experience the same earthly fate as the women and children he killed. As guilty as the bombers in Boston may be, I don’t desire the “poetic justice” that a newscaster just referred to, that one of the bombers should die as a result of an explosion. I’m not saying we should ignore terrorism; I’m saying we should pray for the terrorists just as fervently as we fight for justice. I don’t advocate dismissing the Gosnells of the world; I propose that while we seek to bring about restitution for committed sins, we also earnestly pray that the waters of Baptism will one day quench their furnace of original sin. While we grieve the death of the innocent and hope for their life eternal, let us also pray for the souls of the unjust, that one day, all of Heaven might rejoice as they, too, enter beatitude.
In this time of comboxing and 3-second screen shots, it is easy to caricaturize both heroes and hated, polarizing humanity into actually non-existent camps. We have all had moments of grandeur, where we flurry to the aid of someone set on fire; but we must not forget that we have also, ALL of us, bourn within ourselves the curse of Adam, the fall of mankind. May we who know the Truth of the matter loudly proclaim His good news to this world of moths with matches: that we are good, that we have done wrong, and that a Savior even now intercedes for each one of us, the “worst” included.