It’s hard to believe that this dreaded day in American history is 9 years old now. I lost two dear friends that day and my wife lost a cousin. One friend who worked in the financial district spent 4 months going to funerals.
People forget what a beautiful morning that September 11th was. It seemed as if summer was trying to give us one last taste of its sun before the fall leaves turned and began their descent to the earth. I consider the father who woke up that day and decided to get to the office an hour early so that he could come home early, while that summer sun was still shining and he could spend some ample time with his kids. A laudable decision that would go awry.
People reacted in different ways to the events of that day in the immediacy of the days that followed. Some returned to church and religion after a long absence, others engaged in fleeting sex and risk taking behaviors–after all, who knows what lies beyond tomorrow? So for now, let’s live. Still others wallowed in depression and stayed locked indoors, unable to get past the trauma.
For myself, I was fortunate enough to have a doctor’s appointment in Queens that day and thus avoided Manhattan. The radio in the doctor’s office was tuned to the tragedy and when that first tower crashed, I looked at the receptionist and said, “I’m headed home, I don’t think the doctor will be taking any appointments today.” I watched CNN until my doctor called and told me that he indeed would be able to see me. The office was in my own building and so I headed back. My doctor at the time was a man of Russian heritage and a practicing Jew. He knew of my Catholicism and when he saw me, he said: “You’re in a pretty bad spot today.”
And I replied, “Why? I’m not in any immediate danger here in Queens!”
He added, “No. I mean you are really screwed because you’re Catholic.”
I looked confused.
He stared at me and said, “Love your enemies. Good luck with that one today.”
Today’s Gospel reminds us:
A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good,
but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil;
for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.
What is in our heart today? What from what is stored in our heart can be given to the world today? Can we, from the depths of all that is good about ourselves, reach out and forgive today?
Can we love the unlovable?
Some reading this will say “too early” or the “wounds are still fresh.” Some will look at these words and at the proposed Islamic community center and simply claim that anything that smacks of Islam should be driven away. Some will even demonize religion altogether.
But the foundation of any religion is love. Simply put, love is never easy and anyone who thinks it might be is simply kidding themselves. Love means constantly reaching to another, even when you don’t want to. Love means sacrifice and moving past those feelings of hatred to a different place where you can get past that hate and move into healing divisions, even divisions within yourself.
How can we build on that solid foundation of love? For it is that foundation that Jesus speaks of in the Gospel for today:
I will show you what someone is like who comes to me,
listens to my words, and acts on them.
That one is like a man building a house,
who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock;
when the flood came, the river burst against that house
but could not shake it because it had been well built.
But the one who listens and does not act
is like a person who built a house on the ground
without a foundation.
When the river burst against it,
it collapsed at once and was completely destroyed.”
Will we let hate destroy us? I fear that was the terrorist’s plan all along.
Today let us try to do one small act of love for someone the world deems unlovable. And then let us pray for peace and for freedom. The freedom that enables us to rise above hatred, to forgive one another and to once again, celebrate life.