Sunday, May 12, 2013

Burying a Bomber: What Would Christ Do?

We ended up tonight at St. Matthias in Somerset, NJ, a parish we don't normally go to and we all left stunned and inspired by the homily. The celebrant said he had had extra time this morning and decided to read the newspapers. He read the story of Martha Mullen, the Virginia woman who found a way for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev to be buried in an Islamic cemetery. Her gesture, widely critized, is an example of Christianity in action, he said.

"Are we not told to bury the dead?" he asked. Indeed. Burying the dead is one of the seven corporal acts of mercy. "

God requires us to bury, not just the dead of whom we approve, but every body that was created in His image. "And aren't we supposed to pray for our enemies?" the priest asked us.

Did we know, the priest asked us, that the suspect has a three-year-old daughter? Have we prayed for her?  Have we considered what this child's life will be like? Nope. I hadn't.

 Today's reading was about St. Stephen, considered the first Christian martyr.  He goes to the Sanhedrin, the very people who had condemned Christ just two years earlier. And he speaks of his faith. He was stoned to death.

As they were stoning Stephen, he called out,
“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice,
“Lord, do not hold this sin against them;”
and when he said this, he fell asleep. 

"Mullen was at a Starbucks when she heard a radio news report about the difficulty finding a burial spot for Tsarnaev. 'My first thought was Jesus said love your enemies,' she said.
Then she had an epiphany. "I thought someone ought to do something about this -- and I am someone," Mullen said."

The pastor reminded us to be the hands and feet of Christ in this world, no matter the consequences. We so rarely hear a homily that ties gospel reading to current events. Our teenaged sons were impressed; my husband and I were humbled. Christianity, to be alive, must be a lived faith. Christ is not an event that happened 2,000 years ago. He is embedded in the everyday. He is calling us to love our neighbor, no matter what. 


  1. What a beautiful story about a true work of mercy. We are called to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors. Ms. Mullen did this and is an example of Christ's love and mercy for all.

  2. Yup - sounds like Father Doug. Gotta love him

  3. I read about that....amazing.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing. Goosebumps.