Tuesday, September 11, 2012
IN TIME OF WAR
It is almost the end of the day as I write this. Already here in the north there is fresh snow on the mountains and in the foothills. The harvest is being gathered, leaves are changing, as summer has passed on the mantle of time to the new season. Each of us remembers where we were on this day eleven years ago. I was on an expressway passing along the outer edge of the busiest airport in the country, trying to pay attention to driving while listening to the reports on the radio, having already seen the inferno of the towers on the news before my unavoidable trip began. Out of the corner of my eye, glancing as I had done hundreds of times before on that stretch of highway to see jets taking off just overhead, I became aware there were none! Unbeknownst to me by then all planes had been grounded. Around 11:30 in the evening I arrived at the Motherhouse of my community and noted lights were on in the rooms occupied by the general superior and went up to see him. He was still watching the ongoing news reports and when he saw me quietly asked if I had celebrated Holy Mass yet. I explained I had not having been on the road since early morning. Immediately he turned off the tv and we went and concelebrated the Mass: In Time of War and Civil Disturbance. Today here in the hermitage I celebrated the same Mass, recalling the time some months after this horrific day I was at Ground Zero. All these years since each September 11 it is as if am back there in the company of my firefighter friend who lost so many brothers on that day while he himself with so many other heroes dug through the rubble that very day and for months and months on end to find and honour the fallen. The opening prayer of the Mass echoes every human heart that yearns for the civilization of love: “O God, author and lover of peace, to know You is to live, to serve You is to reign; defend against every attack those who cry to You, so that we, who trust in Your protection, may not fear the weapons of any foe.” “Of any foe!” – our greatest foe is of course the unpeaceful one, the warring one, the one who is the antithesis of love for his entire being is nothing more than hate and darkness. Humanly speaking we Christians and our Elder Brothers and Sisters in faith, the Jewish people, know only too well the human foe and each day the news is filled with the hatred and violent bloodletting which still tears at the so very thin fabric of peace on earth. In essence satan’s prime weapon is to poison one solitary human heart at a time with an attitude towards other human beings which sees other not as one like myself but as UN-like myself. This enables a progression in such a heart from unlikeness, to rejection, to conjuring reasons to hate and the most putrid of the lies used to justify hatred, and its expression in violence against another person or community, is rooted in appeal to religion. No baptized person can claim to be a faithful disciple of Christ if we fail to live out ardently Christ’s command that we love and do good to our enemies [Lk.6:27] and pray for those who hate and persecute us [Mt.5:44]. Just before the superior general and I began Holy Mass that night eleven years ago he said very gently: “Wait. I need to take a moment.” There, standing at the altar before the Pantocrator Icon I heard: “Forgive O Jesus for the emotion of hatred heaving in my heart, help me to love and forgive.” Out loud I said the same thing. Jesus is challenging us when confronted by hatred and violence to choose to rise above, go beyond our emotions and choose love over hate, forgiveness over vengeance. In the Canon of the Mass: Jesus, Who Went About Doing Good, we pray: Open our eyes to the needs of our brothers and sisters; inspire in us words and actions to comfort those who labour and are burdened. Make us serve them truly, after the example of Christ and at His command. And may Your Church stand as a living witness to truth and freedom, to peace and justice, that all people may be raised up to a new hope. We can build no more fitting memorial to those who perished on 9/11 than the civilization of love.