Twelve years ago we were secure and invulnerable. The United States was untouchable in its strength and power. Suddenly our lives were shattered. We knew what it meant to be violated, invaded, and helpless. We knew destruction, loss and fear. We suffered the pain of unexpected death and the horror of unexpected attack. Since that violent day which united us in shock and pain, America has fractured. We were attacked by fanatical ideologues, but even as we commemorate this sad anniversary, the lines between “us” and “them” are harsher, blurring our common humanity, our shared citizenship. Twelve years later this day renews the sense of shock and reminds us of the pain of vulnerability. Yet, even as those memories wound us again, let us realize that as a nation we have exposed others to the same suffering. While the innocent become “collateral damage” we have used violent intervention to resolve violent action. We cannot change the past; we can change ourselves. From pain we can learn compassion and from division we can learn unity. On this anniversary of that terrible day, we mourn and remember those we lost and all who were affected. But we also have an opportunity: to overcome the lie of “them” and “us” and learn to act together for the good of all.
God of wisdom and compassion, You create eventual blessings out of every kind of evil. Make us instruments and agents of such creation as we strive to turn the post-9/11 challenges into opportunities and blessings for others and ourselves.
The terrorists of 9/11 were guided by a narrative of intercultural incompatibility. But as people of diverse religious and secular identities, we can prove them wrong in our unity. By building bridges of understanding, we can emerge from the shadows and learn — from one another — how to be our best selves.
Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.
As glass shattered, cement crumbled and steel melted in the inferno of senseless cruelty, the heart of humanity screamed in anguish. September 11, 2001 — a day when the evil potential of misguided ego was again exposed. While our landmarks collapsed in a cloud of smoke and debris, beneath a surge of shock and rage, something awakened in our hearts: compassion. Suddenly, our worldly obsessions faded away as we cried for the plight of others. In memory of this tragic day, let us join hands and pray for God’s grace to heal, unite and empower us to serve with love.
No matter where we came from, what God we prayed to, or what race or ethnicity we were, we were united as one American family… as we honor the memory of those we have lost, let us summon that spirit once more. Let us renew our sense of common purpose. And let us reaffirm the bond we share as a people: that out of many, we are one.
The moment to spend with a husband who loves me, or a sick friend, or a delicious new grandchild is here and now. Not some time later …. The nation learned this lesson all at once that horrible day in September 2001. The pictures stay with us — the fires and falling debris, and, most hauntingly, the faces. Look how young so many of them were, people who thought there would be much more time, a lot of ‘later’ when they could do all the things they really wanted to do. I grieve for their families — especially for those, like me, who haven’t found any trace of the people they loved. But I grieve even more for the people who died that day. They couldn’t know what we know now about the precious gift of time.
Even the smallest act of service, the simplest act of kindness, is a way to honor those we lost, a way to reclaim that spirit of unity that followed 9/11.
On this anniversary of unbelievable sorrow, comfort those who mourn, and guide our hearts toward healing and hope. Remind us of the love of Christ, love which leapt over cultural and ethnic boundaries to feed the hungry, seek the lost and care for the least. Make of Your children, no matter how we name You, one human family, bound together in the work of justice and peacemaking. Make us one with the Light that shines in the darkness and illumines a path toward understanding and reconciliation. Let love be our genuine call. Amen.
Leave behind the self-interest that hardens your heart, overcome the indifference that makes your heart insensitive towards others, conquer your deadly reasoning, and open yourself to dialogue and reconciliation.
When man thinks only of himself, his own interests and places himself in the center, when he permits himself to be captivated by the idols of dominion and power, when he puts himself in God’s place, then all relationships are broken and everything is ruined. Then the door opens to violence, indifference and conflict.
Can we get out of this spiral of sorrow and death? Can we learn once again to walk and live in the ways of peace?
Pope Francis (Prayer vigil for Syria)
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