Seven years ago on September 11, our country suffered the tragedy of a terrorist attack resulting in the deaths of more than 3,000 people. In some ways we still suffer the effects. As a nation we bear the scars inflicted by the terrorists who plotted the attack and flew the planes. If they intended to make us afraid (the definition of terrorist), then they succeeded. Many Americans remain afraid and are reminded of the fear of a future attack through the rhetoric of the current presidential campaign season, or news from far away central Asia.
Another attack on innocent Americans by people with evil intentions could happen at any time. But as we pause to reflect on the deaths from Sept. 11, 2001, this day invites examination of a wider perspective.
Fear, as our Lord Jesus Christ teaches in the Gospel of Mark, is useless. Vigilance and good preparation are certainly prudent courses for inspaniduals and the nation. Fear, however, only serves to intensify an increasing harshness in the ways people relate to each other. We see fear stoked by commentators in the media, in conversations between people and in their communications of e-mails, text messages or more rarely, letters.
As a nation we suffer from a rising anger and anxiety, clear by-products of fear. Families and inspaniduals experience this coarseness on top of the hurts and disappointments that result from human failings and lead to sins in word and deed. All these are crosses to be borne, and they point to the cross which this Sunday the Church celebrates as a feast day, the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
At the moment of imminent death by torture on the cross, Jesus prayed for the forgiveness of humanity as His suffering redeemed the world. The cross of Christ leads to the antidote for our times: forgiveness for those acting or speaking sinfully, compassion for those showing a lack of it.
With our eyes on the cross, we must extend forgiveness from our hearts. Perhaps it is also time to do that which has been rarely suggested in the ensuing seven years. We must forgive the terrorists of 2001 and today, wherever they may be.
Forgiveness is not easy, and cannot be occasional. It must be the permanent attitude of every Christian. Fear is useless. Trust in the transforming power of God’s grace is what is needed to help us forgive the wrongs that cause the sufferings we face in our homes and in our country.
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