Most of us find it challenging to remember what we had for dinner on a Tuesday evening a mere week ago; few of us will be apt to forget in our lifetimes what we were doing when we learned about the attack on the United States on September11, 2001. The world as we knew it changed on nine eleven, 911. Although there were other targets, the horrific sight of things that ought not to be–of airplanes crashing into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in Manhattan, will forever be etched into each individual memory and will be etched into the collective memory of the American people. I remember people describing another day of infamy, December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor Day. But somehow 911 was different. Perhaps it was because of the immediacy of the event replayed over and over again on television, or perhaps it was because it was an attack on a major city involving so great a loss of civilian life. One thing was made clear to us all. The world had changed. There is no longer one place in the world or any person in the world who is safe from terrorists.
As we gather this weekend on the 10th anniversary of 911, we especially pray for those who were most immediately affected by the terrorist attacks: Families who lost loved ones; children whose mommies and daddies when to work on a Monday who never came home again; first responders such as were the firefighters and the police, ambulance drivers, medics, doctors, emergency responders; suffers of post-traumatic stress syndrome; those who suffer health issues as a consequence of their willingness to respond.
But I wonder this: While we may recognize that there are many who should be recognized for their deeds of valor and yet many more who stand in need of God’s healing grace in the aftermath of 9-11, do we also realize that we, ourselves, stand in need healing grace?
For all of us were affected, if in no other way that the events of that day drove home to us all the reality of globalization—that we live in a shrinking world in which choices and decisions that are made have an effect on every person alive on this planet.
Some have called this the butterfly effect. That’s to say that the butterfly that flutters its wings in one part of the world effects the world continents away. One of the hard realities of 9-11 is that we have driven into our awareness that there is no such a thing, (if ever there were) as splendid isolation. For just as a fish cannot say “I am not a part of the ocean,” neither have we the luxury of saying that we, living in the new world, in these United States, are somehow splendidly apart or aloof from the human condition of the rest of the world.
So we gather to remember. Remembering is the first step in the act of healing. In the language of the New Testament, that remembering is called anamnesis. Anamnesis is specifically the remembering of the Lord Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, his death, and his rising again as a means by which we know the power and the presence of God.
But in a way, what we are doing here is no less than anamnesis. For we remember, not to increase animosity; we MUST remember that we do not remember to foster hatred; for the world has enough of that already.
But we remember the events of that fateful beautiful autumn morning turned ugly so that we may recall the importance of seeking God’s redeeming grace in all that we do. That we might note that the ways of God are more life giving than the ways of the world.
And, we are reminded from the events of that day, together with the reading of this morning’s gospel of the hard reality of life: that violence only serves to beget violence; that hatred only breeds the excuse for more hate. Difficult as it might be for us, in our more immediate inclination, it is our Lord Jesus who asks of us not to render evil for evil but to pray for those who persecute us.