Sunday’s Readings: Isaiah 50:5-9a; Psalms 116:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9; James 2:14-18; Mark 8:27-35
……from your Pastor’s Desk
What a year it’s been With the pandemic, the smoke, the possibility of another fire, social distancing, vaccine or no vaccine, sheltering in place and having to wear these darn masks – we cannot help but focus on just surviving today.
But, today, 9/11/21 is also a commemoration of the most infamous 9/11/01. The day, 20 years ago, when America was attacked on her own homeground, and 2,977 people were killed.
Here is something I wrote 5 years ago. Very unsettling that it also relates to our current pandemic, and, also, the seeming need to place blame. Just change a few words and dates and it could be speaking of today. But instead of doing that, I submit it is as originally written.
Folks, we’ve been through a lot. People ask me ‘What’s Next’? Honestly, I don’t know. Yet I do know whatever it is, we will face it together.
So – written 5 years ago:
September 11th, 2001. 15 years ago today the world changed. We remember the events of 9/11. We know exactly where we were when it happened. We remember the last minutes of those who died as well as the heroic efforts to save the survivors. We remember hearing the replays of the Cell Phones Calls. The Name of loved ones spoken by those about to die. Not Revenge. Not Hate. But Love. One more time to speak to those they loved. One last time, in this world, to speak to those they loved. And Flight 93 – gave their lives so others might live.
Our nation changed 15 years ago. It became unified in its loss, its suffering, its mourning. Did it change for the better? I think that is still in process. In process as we move through the classical stages of grief.
- Denial: What? Is this a sick hoax? This can’t be happening to America!
- Anger: Why did they do this to us? Aren’t we the ‘good guys’?
- Bargaining: If we go on the attack – then we will be safe !!!!
- Depression: So many people became numbed and sad that we can no longer protect ourselves…and maybe haven’t been for a while. The American Dream has turned into a nightmare….
- Acceptance: I’m ready for whatever comes. This is the big one – Are You ready for what comes next?
Today we pray that days like 9/11 will never happen again. But a strong military or a tough foreign affairs policy or strengthening our boarders isn’t going to do it. And we can only do that by changing our hearts – As individuals and as a nation. ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’; Scripture says. Sadly, its wisdom is not yet ingrained in our humanity. It is as if individually and collectively we too easily overlook this guidance. Perhaps the reality of original sin is to be found in our short-sightedness. We need to take to heart this and other steps towards salvation in today’s readings.
Jesus personalizes this best of guidelines to right living by telling us, ‘Be merciful just as also your Father is merciful’. That – my friends is the next step I asked if you were ready for. Are you ready to forgive?
‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you’. Luke 6:27-28. Can we replace anger and hatred and vengeance with mercy, and pardon and forgiveness?
No….we can’t. Not by ourselves anyway. Yes – we can. But only by the Grace of God. The same Grace that our Savior received the same Grace we will celebrate this Wednesday of the Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross.
We pay greatest tribute to those who have died by taking the best parts of their lives and incorporating them into our own – those who gave their lives for others – the firemen, policemen, paramedics, clergy, the people of flight 93 – those who spoke their final words as words of love and forgiveness. All, in a way, paid tribute to the one who loved us first, most and always. That man on the cross. Let us emulate them. Let us emulate Him. ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do…’
I think the atrocities committed on 9/11 were done by people who knew full well what they were doing. But that is not what Jesus meant. If anyone really understood and believed in the sanctity of each and every human life they would protect each and every one at any cost. To open Heaven’s-Gate Jesus had to forgive even those who killed him to complete His work on earth. The final act of reconciliation.
If we don’t forgive we can’t move forward….. And every day is 9/11. If we keep our hearts hardened – we keep God out and the prayer to ‘Our Father’ becomes condemnatory instead of salvific – if we ask God to forgive us as we do not forgive others. If we don’t extend mercy – then they did win….and we remain defeated. But the Cross for us is a sign of victory – not defeat. Let us take these Gospel words to heart….. “Peter approached Jesus and asked him, Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
I lost personal friends 15 years ago. I have to make a concentrated effort to be forgiving. Some days it is more difficult than others. But then I only need look at the Crucifix and remember how much I am forgiven.