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MAY, 2013: "REFLECTIONS FROM THE BISHOP"
NOW AVAILABLE HERE
MAY, 2013 Reflections from the Bishop
Of all the images and stories that came flooding out of the recent terrible events in Boston, I have found Jeff Bauman’s face-to-face encounter with Tamerlan Tsarnaev to be the most haunting. The Post-Gazette put it this way: “Minutes before the bombs blew up in Boston, Jeff Bauman looked into the eyes of the man who tried to kill him.” While still heavily drugged from a double amputation, Jeff was able to describe Tamerlan so clearly that the search for suspects in video evidence was sharply focused and their eventual apprehension accelerated.
We might imagine what Jeff would have said or done in that moment if he had known that there was a bomb in that backpack, but he did not know. None of the victims did. The work of violence and destruction that was done that day counted on the innocence of those who would become victims and the deception of those who caused the harm. Tragedy is the powerful combination of innocence and deception that tears at our hearts and says, “This should not have been.”
But look! In this sense, the death of Jesus Christ was not a tragedy. The witness of Scripture is very clear on these points: Jesus knew that he was targeted for destruction. And those who intended to kill him did not hide their goal. If we look, we can find eye-to-eye moments in the events of Holy Week and Easter that point to something quite different from a tragedy: Jesus, face to face with Judas at the Last Supper. Looking across the courtyard to catch Peter’s eye after his three-fold denial. Before Caiaphas, and Herod, and Pilate. The moment of crucifixion, when the faces of those pounding the nails into Jesus’ hands must have been only an arm’s length away.
The meeting of eyes can be the most profound experience in the world. In the moment that Tamerlan looked into Jeff’s eyes, innocence and deception met face to face moments before a tragedy was detonated. But when the sinful world as a whole, through the eyes of Judas, Peter, Pilate, and the others, looked into the face of Jesus, something else was happening. “I will kill you,” the world said openly to God. “Yes, I know,” God said. “And I will love you in return.”
If you are near enough to a picture of Jesus that you can look into his eyes, stop reading; take the time to do that now. If you are not, turn the page over, and look into the face of Jesus that you see printed there.[i]
There may be nothing more honest in the world than to look into the face of Jesus. We can see in his eyes that he knows of all the ways we have harbored hatred and destruction in our hearts, and he bears in his very flesh the violent result of those things. But we can also see in his eyes that he loves us completely, fully, with his whole being, and in his resurrection, his very wounded flesh is made our life, our hope, our salvation. On Easter Sunday Jesus looks again into Peter’s eyes, and says, “Peace be with you.” The next week he looks into Thomas’ eyes, and says, “Come, touch, see, and believe.” Jesus looks into your eyes and speaks a word of love.
This is and always has been the Gospel story, the Easter story, a story of love that conquers every evil. In a world that faces tragedy more often that we can bear, we have a story of hope and peace and comfort. In Christ Jesus, God bears willingly the destructive violence of this world and gives in return the gift of grace and peace that nothing can destroy.
 Asjylyn Loder and Esme E. Deprez, Bloomberg News, printed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Vol. 86, No. 263, April 20, 2013, p. A-4.
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