Sermon for September 11

Some Reflections on the Tenth Anniversary of September 11, 2001
Sunday, September 11, 2011
by Fr. John Klingel

We mourn the passing of the victims of September 11, the unsuspecting people who went to work that day, boarded planes, were going about their business only to be cut down, and the emergency workers and other volunteers who bravely came forward to serve those in need and in so doing lost their lives.

We share the sorrow of those many family members and friends of the fallen, whose pain and sense of loss is still as sharp as that tragic day, ten years ago today.

We are sorry to see so many who were involved in the recovery work at Ground Zero affected with such serious health issues as a result of their exposure to the materials present at that site.

We pray for the repose of the souls of all those victims of this tragedy, for the healing of those who were injured, and for the comfort of those who suffered these losses and their families and loved ones.

We note how, for a brief time immediately following September 11, people came together for the common good, reached out to help each other and offer assistance, and put aside the many differences that separate and divide our society. We mourn the passing of that time and believe that unless we are willing to share the burdens of life in a way that is selfless and hopeful, our efforts to form a just, lasting and compassionate society will be hampered.

While we cherish the freedoms of our society, we understand that it is precisely such freedom that makes us vulnerable to unseen attacks brought about by those who wish to do us harm. Prior to September 11, many of us had never experienced an attack on our home land, and our eyes were opened to dangers inherent in living in a free society. At the same time, we should never confuse our civil freedoms with true freedom, the radical existential freedom of the Gospel.

Understanding the reasons for September 11 is an important and noble goal, but we must also accept that there are limits on our understanding. As creatures of God, there are many things that we will never fully understand and this includes the nature of evil and suffering in the world. At the same time, in a spirit of humility we should try to understand the reasons for this event.

In an effort to right the wrongs of September 11 and bring those responsible to justice, we have engaged in military operations and war for ten years as well. Many have died in these conflicts, far more than were victims on September 11. We also mourn their passing and we commend their bravery in taking up the defense of our nation and people. At the same time, the decision to enter into war is a grave one, fraught with moral uncertainty and ambiguity. We may question the wisdom of such a decision, especially when we consider the complex nature of our world and the political, social and religious forces that underlie this conflict.

We should ask ourselves what we have done in these ten years to enter a spirit of forgiveness towards those who have harmed us, and to renounce hatred, bigotry and judgment of others. Have we tried during this time to broaden our knowledge of cultures other than our own? If we have not yet read even one book about Islam or the middle East, now would be a good time to do so. We should not allow the radicalization of Islam by a minority of its members to shape our understanding of this religious tradition or of these events in our world.

Our memorial for those who have fallen should be an active, living memorial by which we seek to live the Christian life in true freedom, the freedom of the Gospel of Our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ. Under the power of that freedom and not on our own, we are able to embrace the other, even one who harms and mistreats and abuses us, and see in that person our brother and our sister in Christ. Such a memorial is the power of the Cross in our lives, the forgiveness of the Cross, and the glory of the Resurrection of Christ.

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