Sunday, September 11, 2011

On the Tenth Anniversary

As with so many people, the memory of "where were you?" on 9/11 is still clear in my mind. 

Watching in disbelief as the first tower fell, then the second. Waiting for the stock market that wouldn't open for four days.  Working in an office with a New Yorker for a director, who immediately closed the office and sent us home should there be more attacks. Gathering our wits as we faced an uncertain future in our industry with the market closures and the fears that everyone had surrounding our country.  Knowing very little except that this was definitely out of our control.  Hopeful that God would bring good from the destruction, somehow.

A mix of emotion: anger, sadness, disbelief, retaliation, shock, fear, despair. 

Pope John Paul's prayer at the time, in response:

Almighty and merciful God,
You cannot be understood by one who sows discord.
You cannot be accepted by one who loves violence:
Look upon our painful human condition tried by cruel acts of terror and death,
comfort your children and open our hearts to hope,
so that our time may again know days of serenity and peace.
Through Christ our Lord.

In February 2002, I was back on the east coast for Merrill Lynch at our Princeton campus.   I flew my brother out, and together we journeyed to New York to visit Ground Zero.  I shot the image above after we waited in line for hours to have a  few short moments on the platform for viewing. 

It was a very sobering experience, being so close.  It was also a place of healing and hope.  Messages of love and care were etched in the giant plywood walls erected on the path toward the platform.  Someone had left a sweet 'crying doll' along the wall, which left many choked up.

Today, ten years later. 

Lectoring at Mass today was a bittersweet is so often the case with our readings and our daily lives, they definitely tied into the scope of 9/11.  (If you're not Catholic, the Sunday readings from Scripture are set on a 3 year rotation, and they are the same around the world.  Every Catholic Mass on Sunday uses the same readings - no matter where you are. Just read in a different language, specific to the local area.  Each set of readings includes a passage from the Old  Testament, an epistle, and a Gospel reading.) 

The First Reading  |  Sirach 27: 30 - 28: 9
Anger and wrath, these also are abominations, and the sinful man will possess them. He that takes vengeance will suffer vengeance from the Lord, and he will firmly establish his sins. Forgive your neighbor the wrong he has done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray. Does a man harbor anger against another, and yet seek for healing from the Lord? Does he have no mercy toward a man like himself, and yet pray for his own sins? If he himself, being flesh, maintains wrath, who will make expiation for his sins? Remember the end of your life, and cease from enmity, remember destruction and death, and be true to the commandments. Remember the commandments, and do not be angry with your neighbor; remember the covenant of the Most High, and overlook ignorance. Refrain from strife, and you will lessen sins; for a man given to anger will kindle strife, and a sinful man will disturb friends and inject enmity among those who are at peace.
The Second Reading  |  Romans 14: 7-9
None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
The Gospel  |  Matthew 18: 21-35
Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. "Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the reckoning, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents; and as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, `Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But that same servant, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat he said, `Pay what you owe.' So his fellow servant fell down and besought him, `Have patience with me, and I will pay you.' He refused and went and put him in prison till he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, `You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?' And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."
Clearly, forgiveness is a strong message sent in today's readings.  Often overlooked as a critical step in healing...but significant nonetheless. 

At the end of Mass, Father led Adoration and Benediction within a special holy hour in remembrance.  We don't normally have either following a Sunday Mass.  Essentially, it was an hour of prayer for those who wished to stay, in front of the Blessed Sacrament.  The chance to pray directly in front of and with our Lord.  There were periods of silence within, and a handful of spoken prayers to guide the hour until Exposition had ended. 

Our parish is on the same street as our main fire station.  With the 90° today, all the doors to the church were wide open throughout Mass into Adoration.  As we finished a prayer for peace, there was a fire call and sirens began outside as the engines and aid cars left the station, headed past the church, and to their destination. 

It was a heart-wrenching background to the silence of our private prayers.

For me, personally, there was a definite call to forgiveness in my heart throughout Adoration.  Each of the readings struck a strong chord with me.  It's all to easy to hear a reading or message and your immediate response might be, "Oh wow, how powerful.  "So & so" definitely needed to hear that."  And it's always easier to make that infamous "so & so" person be someone other than yourself, know what I mean?

The simplest of change comes at a very personal level.  Effective worldwide change only comes about with the softening of minds and hearts as bridges are built and hurts are mended. 

Pope Benedict XVI said of today, on the 10th anniversary,
"The tragedy of that day is compounded by the perpetrators' claim to be acting in God's name.  Once again, it must be unequivocally stated that no circumstances can ever justify acts of terrorism. Every human life is precious in God's sight and no effort should be spared in the attempt to promote throughout the world a genuine respect for the inalienable rights and dignity of individuals and peoples everywhere. 
The American people are to be commended for the courage and generosity that they showed in the rescue operations and for their resilience in moving forward with hope and confidence. It is my fervent prayer that a firm commitment to justice and a global culture of solidarity will help rid the world of the grievances that so often give rise to acts of violence and will create the conditions for greater peace and prosperity, offering a brighter and more secure future."
My prayer today was to ask for grace in healing the hurts that I've caused or to be able to find forgiveness in specific areas that its needed in my life.  Not easy, but definitely worthwhile.  And it's what has been asked of me [and probably everyone :) ]. 

It's not often that I am watching a football game and find myself tearing up.  Jonathan, on the other hand, has only teared up at a football game when Walter Jones raised the 12th man flag last year.  But this commercial, played during the Seahawks game today, was simple + beautiful. 

It's a remake of the original, shown only once on television.


Anonymous said...

You may find this homily of interest -

shelley said...

That was an excellent read! Not many priests tackle that subject these days...good to read! Thanks!!!

Anonymous said...

You are quite welcome. I've lurked on your blog for a long time now, by the way. I enjoy your posts and your photography. I've shared your photog blog with friends all over!

Anonymous said...

Shelley, you are so full of grace. I love you. Aunt Sue... Your sons are so blessed, and your hubby too.

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