April 19: Boston’s Broken Heart (Easter3B)

“The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead – of this we are witnesses.” (Acts 3:14)


On this Third Sunday of Easter, we are called to witness to Christ and to welcome one another at this sacred meal. In the Acts of the Apostles Peter reminds us: “The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead – of this we are witnesses. (Acts 3:14)

For the early Christians, the word “witness” was interchangeable with the word for “martyr” – a life gives for the faith. Here the history and the memory of the Church rest.

Tomorrow is Patriot’s Day in Boston, and the second anniversary of the bombing where three people died, and 260 were severely wounded. Eight-year-old Martin Richard died that day, and his sister, a seven-year-old, lost her leg.

As you know, the sentencing phase of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s trial continues. He was convicted of thirty counts that can bring him the death penalty.

On Friday, Bill and Denise Richard, Martin’s parents, wrote a “Letter to the Editor” published in the Boston Globe asking that the death penalty be put aside. I can think of no more eloquent statement of a witness, martyrdom, and yes, mercy – from parents who speak: “heart to heart,” “parent to parent,” and “citizen to citizen.”

In Bill and Denise Richard’s own words:

The past two years have been the most trying of our lives. Our family has grieved, buried our young son, battled injuries, and endured numerous surgeries — all while trying to rebuild lives that will never be the same. We sat in the courtroom, day after day, bearing witness to overwhelming evidence that included graphic video and photographs, replicated bombs, and even the clothes our son wore his last day alive. We are eternally grateful for the courage and life-saving measures of first responders, Boston Police, the Boston Fire Department, and good Samaritans on April 15, 2013. We also thank the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, the Department of Justice, and the Massachusetts US Attorney’s Office for leaving no stone unturned during the investigation and trial.

But now that the tireless and committed prosecution team has ensured that justice will be served, we urge the Department of Justice to bring the case to a close. We are in favor of and would support the Department of Justice in taking the death penalty off the table in exchange for the defendant spending the rest of his life in prison without any possibility of release and waiving all of his rights to appeal.

We understand all too well the heinousness and brutality of the crimes committed. We were there. We lived it. The defendant murdered our 8-year-old son, maimed our 7-year-old daughter, and stole part of our soul. We know that the government has its reasons for seeking the death penalty, but the continued pursuit of that punishment could bring years of appeals and prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives. We hope our two remaining children do not have to grow up with the lingering, painful reminder of what the defendant took from them, which years of appeals would undoubtedly bring. 

For us, the story of Marathon Monday 2013 should not be defined by the actions or beliefs of the defendant, but by the resiliency of the human spirit and the rallying cries of this great city. We can never replace what was taken from us, but we can continue to get up every morning and fight another day. As long as the defendant is in the spotlight, we have no choice but to live a story told on his terms, not ours. The minute the defendant fades from our newspapers and TV screens, the minute we begin rebuilding our lives and our family.

This is a deeply personal issue, and we can speak only for ourselves. However, it is clear that peace of mind was taken not just from us but from all Americans. We honor those who were lost and wished continued strength for all those who were injured. We believe that now is the time to turn the page, end the anguish, and look toward a better future — for us, for Boston, and the country.

We are an Easter people living in a Good Friday world. As witnesses, we walk in the Easter light of Resurrection – after the long shadow of the cross.

So we stand as witnesses of the light – asking for God’s presence, warmth, and healing at this sacred meal of hospitality and friendship – a transformative act that can change hearts.

The Emmaus story, today’s gospel from St. Luke, is a meal of healing and welcoming hospitality: Jesus is walking with us, listening to us, talking to us – nourishing us, and mostly empowering us in our lives.

Easter celebrates Christ present and yet to come. “If you love me, my Father and I will make a home with you,” he tells us. An Easter promise to each of us – our broken lives healed and made whole in this sacred meal with him.

San Carlos Cathedral, Monterey, CA.


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