Daily Reflection
September 11th, 2002
 Andy Alexander, S.J.
University Ministry and the Collaborative Ministry Office
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1 Cor 7:25-31
Ps 45:11-12, 14-15, 16-17
Lk 6:20-26

"Blessed are you who are poor,  for the Kingdom of God is yours. ...
  But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation."  Luke 6

I trust that a community of faith around the world will understand if an American Jesuit reflects upon this gospel in light of this first anniversary of the horrible terrorist attack on this country, and what this Word might be saying to us all.

So many of us remember exactly where we were that day when we heard the news of one plane hitting one of the World Trade Towers.  Then a second.  Then the pentagon.  Still another thwarted.  A sense of being under attack.  Were there more?  Where?  And then the scenes we've seen over and over, but can barely comprehend, of one tower and then the other crumbling in a deadly inferno.

As we reeled in shock and outrage at the evil that could viciously slaughter innocent human life for political points, we struggled with the reality of being a 'victim' of terrorism on our own soil - at these symbols of our national pride and identity.  We felt smaller somehow, in this new vulnerability.  We had a taste of what so many peoples of the world know as a way of life. 

But within hours we were filled with inspiration and pride as we heard stories of true heroism - fire-fighters rushing up the stairs to try to save more lives, thousands of New Yorkers responding with an almost unbelievable spirit of generosity and togetherness, and those passengers who took their plane down in a Pennsylvania field to avert an even greater tragedy.  We were inspired and proud most of all because these acts of self-forgetfulness and total gift of self for the common good, seemed so spontaneous and automatic, so genuinely part of an American character we didn't seem to know about any more in our jaded view of the world and ourselves.  And, we seemed to turn to God, at a new level, in ways that were somehow more "acceptable."

It has been a year of many feelings and experiences.  A war on terrorism - defeating them before they defeat us - has been our national response.  Self defense is, of course, natural and justified.  Such injustice cannot go unanswered.  And, there have been many changes to our way of life - to balance individual liberties with security and the protection of human life.  It has been said so many times that our life as we had known it has changed forever.

In our celebration of this anniversary we will remember those who have died in this tragedy and their families who have suffered most grievously.  We will honor the heroes, who made us proud.  And, I'm sure there will continue to be calls for war.

On this day, I pray that Christians around the world will pause to reflect upon these words of Jesus.  It is always dangerous to make very simple responses to extraordinarily complex issues.  But, it is challenging and consoling to listen to Jesus call us to a deeper reflection on the situation we find ourselves in.  Unfortunately, because terrorism and the attack on innocent lives is never justifiable, it is difficult for us to even ask the question about how we contribute to a world were terrorists exist.  I pray that we might as a people experience a call to a war on injustice and poverty and hopelessness.  I pray that we might humbly see how our lifestyle and national agenda too often skews and adversely affects so many of the peoples of the world. 

These words from the U.S. Bishops seem so important today:

"No grievance, no matter what the claim, can legitimate what happened on September 11. Without in any way excusing indefensible terrorist acts, we still need to address those conditions of poverty and injustice which are exploited by terrorists. A successful campaign against terrorism will require a combination of resolve to do what is necessary to see it through, restraint to ensure that we act justly, and a long term focus on broader issues of justice and peace." Living with Faith and Hope

A year after September 11th's violence, we may be ready to see that we may never be able to change the world by our military might or our economic power.  The irony of our life, is the irony of the Good News.  Only through a conversion of heart, a greater dependence upon God, a personal and political and national re-alignment of our priorities, will we change the world.  Only in solidarity with those who suffer injustice and terrible deprivation, which most of us will never know, will we be able to become reconcilers in our world.  We can help the hopeless turn from violence by showing our resolve to marshal our energy, resources and commitments to restoring hope.   "The harvest of justice is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace."  James 3:18  Harvest of Justice

May our Lord bless this anniversary, with all the graces that God must desire for us in the United States and for our whole world.

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