Seventeen 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 taken that particular 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 Saint Paul speaks to the Corinthians today. He speaks about letting ourselves be cheated and allowing the injustice that sometimes happens to us, rather than fighting it by committing the same sins ourselves. He exhorts us to treat each other as brothers and sisters. And yet, when we look at an injustice like the tragedy of 9-11, it can be hard to see our persecutors as brothers and sisters. It’s almost unthinkable to just let it happen to us and not lash out. But his point is that fighting against it by perpetrating injustice to others is sinful too, and he’s right.
The point is that we have to live the peace and justice and righteousness that we want to see in the world. If all we do is respond to evil with evil, we don’t ever change anything. But if we respond by making our corner of the world a better place, it can change everything. The Gospel Verse today says, “I chose you from the world, that you may go and bear fruit that will last, says the Lord.” And evil never lasts, because Christ has conquered it. Peace, justice, and love – those things last, because their source is God himself.
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.
And so today 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, for an end to evil and terrorism and murder and injustice of every kind. Toward all of that, I offer today the prayer that Pope Benedict offered ten years ago 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.