The following is a reflection given by Sr. Jean Anne Zappa, OSU, at a Mass for the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville on September 11, 2023, in the Ursuline Motherhouse Chapel.
As we pray about peace on this 9/11 day, we most likely remember where we were when we heard the horrible news on September 11, 2001, 22 years ago and the many feelings we had that day and many days after and for some, the intense feelings are still there.
And many times, we have heard that peace is more than the absence of war. It is about justice, a state of mind, a virtue, or a disposition for benevolence.
St. Paul tells us that qualities of peace and forgiveness are reflected in kindness, gentleness, and patience. St. Angela, in her rule on virginity and the 2nd counsel, echoes what Paul says in our relationships with each other.
In the gospel, Jesus is clear about what we must do to seek peace—when we are hurt or violated, we are not to seek revenge or get even but show the opposite, even going as far as loving your enemies and doing good to those who hurt you. He ends by asking us to be perfect as God is. I read a translation about the word “perfect” in scripture—it means to be gracious, hospitable, and generous—more reflections of peace.
I want to share a real–life situation with you that embodies peace in action.
A young girl Katlyn was 4-years-old when her dad died in 9/11. He worked for the Port Authority and went in to rescue others and the tower collapsed.
Instead of hate and retribution against the terrorists or the nationality of the terrorists, this young child was taught by her mother to find ways to keep her loving dad’s memory alive, to find good in others, to do good, to love and live the opposite of the terrorists.
When in grade school and high school Katlyn did projects for first responders. She went to Sacred Heart College in Connecticut, majored in social work, wanting to help others and joined the service club there and did some mission trips and she became an organ donor. At college she continued to do fundraisers for first responders.
In the spring of 2017 during one of the fundraisers Katlyn sponsored for the first responders was an eating contest. As Katlyn participated, she choked, and was suffocating, they tried CPR to no avail. And they knew she was an organ donor, so she was kept alive until she was flown back to New Jersey where Katlyn was able to donate her organs to 11 persons before she died. One of those recipients was my niece-in-law, Sonia. Katlyn lived peace to the end by loving and being generous with her life, sharing with others, so others have life.
Katlyn and her mother knew in their hearts what true peace was and how to live it—with generosity, compassion, forgiveness and kindness for others. They truly embraced what Jesus said in the gospel today to avoid revenge and to seek forgiveness and live with graciousness and generosity.
Pope Francis said, “I invite you not to build walls but bridges, to conquer evil with good, offense with forgiveness and live in peace with everyone.” Katlyn and her mom lived this challenge—may we also.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful.
Teaching About Retaliation.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on [your] right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.
If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well.
Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.
Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.
Love of Enemies.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors, do the same?
And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.