Post-bomb faith service for Boston reaches for the light

Three days after the Boston Marathon bombing, President Obama and local clergy join in a healing service that shows how to respond to the hatred of a terrorist act.

President Obama speaks during an interfaith memorial service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing in Boston, Massachusetts April 18.

Boston is a city whose people often like to have the last word. But on Thursday, three days after the bombing of the Boston Marathon, the city came together in an interfaith service with this message for those touched by the tragedy: God’s love will have the last word.

Local clergy as well as President Obama spoke of how the instincts of those who ran toward the blast to help the victims reflected the power of love to transcend fear. Or as one minister put it: “to gravitate toward the infinite good on its throne.”

The service’s theme was so focused on healing that Mr. Obama even declared to those hospitalized with limb amputations: “You will run again!” 

His main point, along with others who spoke at the pulpit of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, was of a need to substitute kindness for suffering, gratitude for loss, and joy for weeping. “In the face of evil, Americans will lift up what’s good,” Obama said.

The service was not only for Boston. Clergy took note of those lost in the West, Texas, plant explosion as well as the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. Churches are meant to be all-embracing, like the God they worship. Or, as one Newtown resident told a Christian Science Monitor reporter: “The church is becoming a different place in the life of the community.... We can be the face of healing and love for the community.”

In his remarks, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick noted how difficult it is to follow the biblical instruction to “be thankful in all things” after such a tragedy. Yet he then gave a long list of those who displayed inspiring qualities of kindness and endurance after the bombing, from strangers to police, medical workers, and investigators. He noted one surgeon who finished the marathon and then ran to his hospital to operate on the injured.

“Only light can drive out darkness,” Governor Patrick said, quoting Martin Luther King Jr.

For the more than 150 people injured on Monday, and the families of the three people who were killed, this service by both secular and religious leaders perhaps brought a personal peace and spiritual restoration. For the rest of us, it was a reminder of how much a community must unite after a terrorist act, not with feelings of dread and hate but of their opposites. Obama stated: “Scripture teaches us, ‘God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.’ ”

And for a Boston made even stronger by the bombing, that was the final word.

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