Nor doth he by ascending show alone,
But first He, and He first enters the way.
John Donne, Ascension
I was puzzling over what to write here when across my Facebook newsfeed came the story of a New Englander (a “Yale grad” the headline noted) who has offered a burial plot for the Boston Marathon bomber, Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Three weeks after Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with police, and with no cemetery willing to receive his remains, Douglas Keene of Vermont made the offer to Tsarnaev’s family on the condition that it be done
in memory of my mother who taught Sunday School at the Mt. Carmel Congregational Church for twenty years and taught me to ‘love thine enemy.’
It is surprising how surprising Keene’s simple, straightforward gesture seems. But it strikes me that part of its beauty is that it invites us to remember what crucifixion-resurrection-ascension make possible: the overcoming of our violence and our need to scapegoat and exclude. In Jesus’ living and dying, in his rising from death and his ascension into heaven, a new social order is opened up to us–God’s new creation–in which enemies are loved and we are free to relinquish the cherished fiction of our innocence.