Seven years ago today, I sat in my room at seminary waiting for my first class to begin. My classmates were already in their first classes; I had that class in college, so I didn’t have to take it again in seminary. While I waited for class to begin, I flipped on the morning news, and just caught the end of something about a plane colliding with one of the towers of the World Trade Center. I tried to get more information on the internet, but Yahoo news was running slow because of all the people trying to find out what happened. Later, as I watched on television, I learned of the tragic events of four plane crashes that day and the thousands of lives that were lost. Our world, in those tragic hours, was changed forever.
And so today, it can be very hard to hear the words Jesus speaks in our Gospel:
Love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you,
pray for those who mistreat you.
To the person who strikes you on one cheek,
offer the other one as well,
and from the person who takes your cloak,
do not withhold even your tunic.
Quite frankly, sinful man that I am, I am not even sure how to do that, or do it well. I do know that God has done that for us time and time again. Sin makes us God’s enemies, and yet he loved us enough to send his only Son for the forgiveness of our sins. But we know too, that Jesus never said anything he didn’t mean, and so this teaching applies to us in our grief and our outrage just as much as it ever did. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
So I think we have to look at ourselves. Have we been sources of peace or sources of anger, hate and violence? And I don’t even mean that on any grand scale. Maybe we’ve just been jealous in petty ways, or have held on to the occasional grudge. Maybe we have decided not to call the relative whose phone only seems to accept incoming calls. Maybe we have sent a nasty email without stopping to consider it for any due time. Maybe we have made or laughed at a racial joke, or have decided not to confront a person who uses racial slurs. To whatever extent we have not been peaceful, we have added to the hatred and evil of which our world is already full.
I think we have to take seriously Jesus’ words today:
Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
We are offering this Mass today as a Mass of reconciliation. We pray for ourselves, that we might be more forgiving, for our world that it might be more peaceful, for our enemies and ourselves that we might come to know each other as children of God. I offer today the prayer that Pope Benedict offered earlier this year at Ground Zero:
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 …
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.