Scripture reflections – September 11th, 2011

Sir 27:30 – 28:7; Rom 14: 7-9; Mt 18: 21 – 35

There will be a plethora of ceremonies, prayer services and musical tributes commemorating this 10th anniversary of 9/11.  All of which raises the question – How ought we remember the dead on this solemn occasion.  Starting with the thousands who perished at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, of course.  But also remembering the thousands who died overseas in the combat that followed 9/11 – our troops, the thousands of Iraqi and Afghani civilians who were in harm’s way (in a particular way, the children) and, yes, even our enemies who perpetrated 9/ll and continue to wish us ill.

How can we best observe this occasion?  Today’s gospel gives us a good idea.  When Peter asks Jesus if he should forgive the one who wrongs him seven times, he probably is expecting a gold star.  That would seem like a lot of forgiving to most of us.  Jesus, however, witholds the gold star and instead gives Peter a challenge – not seven times, but seventy times seven times.

Whoa! I’m afraid it’s even worse than that, however.

Seven is the Biblical number of perfection or completion and in Biblical numerology multiplying a number by itself intensifies it even further.  Forgive seven times?  No.   Four hundred and ninety times? No.   We forgive to infinity.  As often as our sister or brother asks – even when they don’t – we forgive.  With no exceptions.

It was quite a coincidence of events that within the same weekend that Pope John Paul II was proclaimed Blessed by the Church some U.S. Navy seals killed Osama bin ladin.  When I saw my high school students again on Monday, I prayed for both – with the Pope and for the soul of Osama.  In one class, if looks could kill, I would have been dead.  Yet both were created in the same God’s image with the same passionate love.

So this will be my way to remember 9/11.  To hand over the anger and the hurt and whatever hatred may be hiding in the shadows of my soul to God.  What 9/11 demonstrated in vivid and tragic technicolor is the violence that hate and vengeance can breed.   In a vision inspired by C.S. Lewis (he imagined an American and German soldier on the way to eternity together in the moment after they had just killed one another) I imagine all of the victims of 9/11 who opened themselves to Love standing together now in Love’s embrace.  And, all together, in many different languages  they call out to us the same word:


Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)

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