By Sister Janet M. Peterworth, OSU
Do you remember? I remember. Do you know where you were? I know exactly where I was. Can you recall your feelings? I can.
I am not talking about the day you made your first vows or the day you got married or your first day on a new job or ministry. No, I am talking about Sept 11, 2001. I am talking about that beautiful day of bright sun and Blessed-Mother-blue skies. That beautiful day of a soft morning breeze and a day when we felt secure as we sipped our coffee or drove routinely to our jobs.
I am talking about the day the United States first realized in a new and real way that it was vulnerable. The first day that it realized that while it was a superpower, it was not loved and respected everywhere in the world.
It was the day that we all knew that structures of glass and steel reaching far into the skies, (just like a ship of opulence and beauty that raced full speed ahead into the night,) could be penetrated and brought down in a matter of minutes.
It was also the day we saw the bigness of the human spirit, the day we saw hundreds helping one another, some trained professionals, others ordinary people doing extraordinary things for their neighbors.
This was a day when there were many good shepherds searching for lost sheep in rubble and under stairways and in blocked office buildings. This was the day when many women searched for lost coins in the form of ID tags or watches or rings or anything that would identify a person.
The Gospel calls us not to remember the tragedy of loss…the expensive sheep, the valuable coin…but to remember the joy of the generous shepherd who came back and found the one lost sheep, and the absolute glee of the woman who found the one coin and how both of these folks had to tell their neighbors. The Gospel calls us to be happy for the little lost sheep and for the little lost coin.
And while we will never forget those who were lost in the tragedy of 9/11, we will always rejoice in those who were found because some people, in their generosity, came back to search and to help in any way they could.
But generosity works like that doesn’t it? In the Hebrew scripture we find the story of how, God, with a little persuasion from Moses, decides to be generous and not destroy the Israelites even though God was really ticked at them. And in the letters of Paul, we see him bragging about how generous God was with him even though Paul admits he was a blasphemer, a persecutor and arrogant.
This day…This 20th anniversary of 9/11…calls all of us to be generous with our forgiveness as hard as that might be—this day calls us to remember to pray for our enemies who felt that the only way they could be heard was take the lives of more than 3,000 innocent people and destroy our symbols of wealth and power.
Since Sept 11, 2001, nothing has been the same in the life of our country and in our personal lives. That day left us outraged, afraid, and saddened. Prayers for those killed and for their families came readily to our tongue that day, while prayers for those who did this stuck in our throats and may still be stuck there 20 years later. But pay attention to this Gospel verse that we sometime hear sung. It is so fitting:
“God was entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”
Today we remember to pray again for those lost and those grieving and yes, for those who used airplanes as weapons against us that day and changed our lives—for Jesus tells us, “You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy’, but I tell you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your God in heaven.” What better message of reconciliation?
And on this day of remembering strife among nations, let us also remember the greatness and hope that comes from generosity—that comes from working across national boundaries.
This day of remembering, forgiveness, and prayer reminds me of some of the words of John Lennon’s famous song, Imagine:
“Imagine there’s no countries, it isn’t hard to do, nothing to kill or die for, and no religion, too. Imagine all the people living life in peace.
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.”
If we could imagine this, then we would not have to remember days like Sept 11, 2001…20 years later.