Sunday, September 11, 2011

Still With Sorrow and Pain, We Remember

Dear Coffee Talkers,

As this tenth anniversary of the horrific attacks of September 11th comes to a close, I feel that little more can be said than has already been said. Still, I'll offer what little I have. What can we really do in the face of unthinkable pain and tragedy but have recourse to something, Someone higher than ourselves? Why were certain lives spared, and other lives lost? It's easy to offer trite sayings like, "Well, I guess it was God's time for some to go," or "God must have a special purpose for those people whose lives were spared," but this all seems a severe oversimplification at best, and at worst it seems a mockery of a God who is supposed to have loved humanity into being.

It is interesting to think back to that terrible time ten years ago, and to the months that followed. People mourned together, and they returned to their places of worship, many for the first time in years. Why? Why did these people not harden their hearts even further, taking a permanent turn away from this so-called God who had allowed such atrocities?

I must warn you that I'm leading you down my train of thought without any definitive answers, but I bring you along with me in the hopes that your own journey will lead you to a place of peace. And for me, the only place of peace in such circumstances is perhaps the most unexpected place, the most torturous and violent, the most senseless, cruel, and unjust.

The only place of peace is the Cross.

I can't tell you why; it's a place you'll have to arrive at yourself. But I can say this. If Christians really believe, and I mean really, that our salvation was won at a price, and that price was Jesus' own death on the Cross, then we see the greatest of all gifts, Redemption, flowing from the pain, the injustice, the most unthinkable tragedy. Does it maker it easier? I don't think so. Many atheists think that Christians just buy into the whole idea of a loving God offering his Son as some sort of mental anesthesia to numb us from the pain of reality, but for me, the reality of the Cross is far from mind-numbing, muchless a pleasantry or an idle amusement to busy myself with when the times get tough.

The Cross is where reality meets self-giving love, a gift even unto death in the face of what seems senseless and cruel. And, in time, this sacrifice and pain gives way to redemption, beauty, and love far beyond all imagining. Not always in our own time nor in the way we expect, but the Cross always bears fruit in our lives. Always. It cannot always be seen in this life, this vale of tears, but in the life that is to come we shall be known fully, as we are fully known. This is our great hope, and it is a hope which shall not disappoint.

Fr. Mychal F. Judge, OFM (May 11, 1933 - September 11, 2001) was a Roman Catholic priest of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor, Chaplain of the Fire Department of New York and the first certified fatality of the September 11, 2001 attacks. Fr. Mike had rushed to the World Trade Center to offer assistance and give Last Rites to victims.
Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer at Ground Zero
O God of love, compassion, and healing,
look on us, people of many different faiths
and traditions,
who gather today at this site,
the scene of incredible violence and pain.
We ask you in your goodness
to give eternal light and peace
to all who died here—

the heroic first-responders:
our fire fighters, police officers,
emergency service workers, and
Port Authority personnel,
along with all the innocent men and women
who were victims of this tragedy
simply because their work or service
brought them here on September 11, 2001.

We ask you, in your compassion
to bring healing to those
who, because of their presence here that day,
suffer from injuries and illness.
Heal, too, the pain of still-grieving families
and all who lost loved ones in this tragedy.
Give them strength to continue their lives
with courage and hope.

We are mindful as well
of those who suffered death, injury, and loss
on the same day at the Pentagon and in
Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Our hearts are one with theirs
as our prayer embraces their pain and suffering.

God of peace, bring your peace to our violent world:
peace in the hearts of all men and women
and peace among the nations of the earth.

Turn to your way of love
those whose hearts and minds
are consumed with hatred.

God of understanding,
overwhelmed by the magnitude of this tragedy,
we seek your light and guidance
as we confront such terrible events.

Grant that those whose lives were spared
may live so that the lives lost here
may not have been lost in vain.
Comfort and console us,
strengthen us in hope,
and give us the wisdom and courage
to work tirelessly for a world
where true peace and love reign
among nations and in the hearts of all.

Peace and all good,

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