The events which have taken place around the Boston marathon have shaken our national consciousness and again raise uncomfortable questions about the world in which we are living. Struggling to come to terms with senseless destruction is necessary and understandable in the face of such occurrences, but equally important and worthy of our attention are the questions about the way that we experience these kinds of tragedies.
Boston makes us aware that our perception of world events is still very much geographical. Explosions in crowded public places are alas, commonplace in other parts of the world. They are not in our country. What does this mean for us? Why are the bombings in Boston so painful? Eastertide offers I think a few keys to answering this question.
One of the fundamental changes that took place around the first Easter in the hearts and minds of the disciples, concerns just this problem. Before the crucifixion, the followers of Jesus had become accustomed to connecting their experience of the Christ with the physical presence of Jesus. After the resurrection, a difficult transition takes place wherein these two fundamental aspects which had previously been united seamlessly into their experience of “presence”, are separated from one another. One of the effects of the resurrection shows itself in the way that the disciples begin to look for the risen one in human beings who do not resemble him. In other words, they begin to look for other expressions of his presence, some of which Christ spoke about before his death on the cross, rather than fixating on the physical form he had before his crucifixion. Now stop for a moment and ask yourself, What difference does undergoing this kind of a shift in perception make?
Qualitatively speaking, the shift is similar in character to the shift that occurs when we hear about a tragic bombing off somewhere in some far-away country and when we hear about it in a place like Boston, that we loosely fit into our conceptions of home. Ultimately this shift, which the disciples were asked to undergo at the time of Christ, and that we are being asked to undergo now, can be encapsulated in one word, relevance.
When our world exists separate from everyone else’s, the encounter with another, with a stranger, is not terribly relevant. If, however, my redeemer, my dearest and most beloved friend and confidant may be the stranger who is sitting across from me, that possibility opens a door in my perception of the other that was previously shut. The glorious feeling of possibility begins to dawn in the soul as a question, Who are you, and what do we have to do with one another? This feeling is an expression of the continuing working of Christ on earth. The tragedy in Boston can remind us of this.
-Rev. Marcus Knausenberger