This morning at about 3am ET, two explosions rocked the departure hall at Brussels’ Zaventem Airport, killing eleven people. At least one of the two explosions was caused by a suicide bomber.
About an hour later, another explosion rocked the Maelbeek subway station in central Brussels, not far from the European Union’s headquarters. That bomb killed about 20 people.
In all so far, more than 230 people have been wounded in addition the 31 deaths.
ISIS has claimed responsibility for both tragedies.
Here’s the link to the New York Times report of the incidents.
Whether ISIS planned it so or not, I find it interesting that the attacks have taken place during Holy Week – the week we’re supposed to be contemplating the death of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now there are other deaths to contemplate.
The individuals who died in the Brussels terrorist attacks are victims of violence borne of hatred. Jesus also died a violent death at the hands of haters.
The difference is that Jesus’ death had a purpose. The deaths of the Brussels victims are seemingly senseless.
I think, friends, that we have before us an opportunity to render their deaths sense-ful, if you will, in that we can give some meaning to them. Granted, on a practical level, there are things that can and should be done to defend our countries against those who seek to destroy us and to do what needs to be done to prevent further such attacks. I’ll leave that for the moment to the civic leaders. On a spiritual level, we’re being called to greater holiness in our personal lives, and to greater prayer and sacrifice for those who died, but in particular, for their killers.
That’s radical thinking, perhaps, and I can’t take credit for the idea. It came first from our Lord:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors* do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So, be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:44-48)
By means of their beliefs, ISIS has made themselves our enemies in that they’d just as soon wipe all Christians off the face of the earth – in violent, painful ways – than allow us to live. Jihad is not a fable from an old comic book; it’s a reality that has been declared by Islamic extremists.
Still, Jesus says to love them and pray for them.
What better time to strive for that kind of perfection than during Holy Week? Jesus loved his enemies until his last human breath and he continues to love them now.
He wants us to do the same.
While this is certainly a time to be careful, it’s not a time to be fearful or hateful. It’s a time to be prayerful and sacrificial. We can and must pray for the attack victims, but we also can and must pray for their attackers.
As we move through each of the events of this Holy Week – the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Veneration of the Cross, Easter Vigil, Easter Sunday Mass – we can counter the hatred with abiding love and in imitation of our Suffering Savior.
We can offer our prayers and sufferings for the conversion of those so blinded by hatred that they seek only to torment and destroy.
We can and must pray for our enemies.
Jesus said so.