Many of those interested in historical trivia know that President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on Good Friday 1865. His admirable achievements aside, the day of his death deified him-at least for Christians, the day on which Lincoln died made it that much easier to conflate the narrative of his life with God’s own.
As far as historical coincidences go, one can hardly do better than that, but here’s another:
In April 1981, the Pawtucket Red Sox and Rochester Red Wings were locked at 2-2 in a minor league baseball game that began on Holy Saturday and continued into the early hours of Easter Sunday. The game was suspended at 4:07 a.m. during the 32nd inning but concluded on June 23 in the bottom of the 33rd inning, when the PawSox brought it home. An analysis of this numerological miracle can be left to Dan Barry, who dissects the game’s beauty in his Bottom of the 33rd.
Again, it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which average events and religious significance more evidently collide, but today we came pretty close.
Just one day after Easter Sunday-the day on which Christians the world over celebrate the triumph of life over death-Boston ran its marathon.
The meaning and joy of this significance should not be reserved for the devout alone. Rest assured, I myself had not been to church for many weeks until this past Sunday, and as I grow older I find my religious doubt only increasing. One could argue that ours is an age of disillusionment-as we scientifically and systematically explain away higher power, as we are incessantly confronted by a world of violence and broken images on our television screens, as that violence seems to be met by political and philosophical fracturing instead of moral solidarity, we lose our faith.
But still, whenever someone asks me whether or not I believe in God, my answer is always a perhaps-too-quick, perhaps-too-unjustified, “Yes.” Because sometimes, despite myself, I see him.
Today, I saw him in the soles of the thousands of feet that made repeated contact with the pavement of Massachusetts streets, each step an emphatic affirmation of motion, a triumph over stasis.
The Christian tradition that Boston College espouses insists that what is lost can be repaired, that what is fallen can rise again. Surely, this is a teaching from which anyone can learn, even if a dissatisfied friend called logic scoffs at its religious context-as one should do in the face of all friends who scoff too often, tell that friend to be quiet so that you can experience those emotions that are beyond pure reasoning, so that you can just enjoy the show.
And what a show the 2014 Boston Marathon was. It was the consummation of Boston’s rejuvenation in the past year-the city’s three days, so to speak. After a Marathon tarnished by unjust death, the community came together to respond with vivacious life.
Invite logic back into the room and he will remind you that there is still work to be done, still questions to be asked. What motivated the alleged bombers last year? Could it have been prevented? Was the lockdown a good idea? Was increased security during this year’s Marathon successful or worthwhile? Does this column assume too much when it asserts that running a Marathon can possibly signify a revival after last year’s tragedy? These are questions worth exploring, but they ought to be reserved for another day.
Today, it is my hope that we can reflect on the image of the thousands of runners passing BC on their way to some invisible finish line past Heartbreak Hill, that we can enjoy the simplicity of a day spent in motion, a day when we all rise early either to run or cheer, a day when we look the memory of death in the eye and say that living is still worthwhile.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” – John 14:27