For those of us old enough to remember, we all know where we were 21 years ago this Sunday, September 11, 2001 (9-11). I had just finished morning mass and went into the kitchen and turned on the TODAY show. Little did I expect to see what was about to unfold in New York City. I was shocked to see the first of the World Trade Towers to be struck by a jet. Then the second tower was struck. The Parish Staff and I were all around the tv listening to the reports and watching the horror of what was unfolding.
I called my classmate, Father Alex Santora who was residing in a rectory in Jersey City. You could walk out his front doors and look over to the World Trade Towers.
Alex had lost all communications from television and asked me what was being reported. He was describing to me what he could see right before his own eyes.
And then the first tower collapsed and then the second.
That beautiful September morning turned into one of the worst days in the history of our nation and the world.
9-11 would devastate us with the thousands of people who were killed that day. We would never be the same people who we were when we got up that morning.
Years later I visited the 9/11 memorial. It was very still and people kept their voices low and respectful. It was such a different experience from the usual hustle and bustle of life in NYC. I stood at the memorial pools and was overwhelmed with tears and the sense of so much loss in the lives of so many people. I will never forget how I felt.
Since that day I visited the memorial, which is referred to as Ground Zero, two Popes also have visited. Both Pope Benedict and Pope Francis paid their respects while in New York City and prayed for the loss of life, the families and friends grieving, the survivors and for all the courageous first responders.
Pope Benedict said in prayer “Turn to your way of love those whose hearts and minds are consumed with hatred…and give us the wisdom and courage to work tirelessly for the world where true peace and love reign among nations and in the hearts of all.”
Pope Francis on his visit decried the violence that took many lives at the site and then spoke of hope.
“The place of death became a place of life, too, a place of saved lives, a hymn to the triumph of life over the prophets of destruction and death, to goodness over evil, to reconciliation and unity over hatred and division.”
These past few weeks we have heard challenging words from the mouth of Jesus. The Gospel of Luke has been strong and challenging. In remembering 9-11, I know many good individuals have struggled with the Gospel and the words of Jesus. Perhaps some of you reading this are among them. But do we not, as followers of Jesus, seek to have our hearts and minds formed by his life and teachings? Jesus called for no hate, vengeance or not forgiving those who have hurt us. Easier said than done but nonetheless it is Jesus calling disciples to carry their cross, forgive their enemies and pray for their persecutors. The Lord’s call to forgiveness and mercy are the basis of his teachings. Love God with all your mind, heart and spirit and love your neighbor as yourself.
This weekend may we bring whatever thoughts and feelings we have before the Lord. May we find the strength to welcome Jesus’s word into our very lives. May we, as we gather in mystery at the Table of the Lord, share in the broken Bread of Life and become Him so that we may be prophets of love and mercy.
Let us believe Jesus who said all things are possible with God. Let us become what we may have never thought we could be by the grace of God.
In faith and hope,