9/11/11

September 11, 2011 at 2:18 pm (Community, Faith, Kids, Politics) (, , , )

Ten years ago, I was in Vancouver, on the third day of my honeymoon.  My husband and I (and it was still very strange to say those words) had woken up early, slightly before 6 am Pacific time and gone down to the hotel’s outdoor pool.  I swam a couple of laps in the freezing cold water before joining Sam in the hot tub.  A middle-aged man was there already.  He was a veterinarian from Michigan, in Canada for a conference.  We talked about bovine spongeform encephalitis, and my uncle Riley who was a sheep farmer.  The world was quiet and dark, sleepy and peaceful.  Only later did we learn that at those exact moments Sam’s hometown of New York was under attack, that when we returned to our house in Washington, DC, our world would have changed irrevocably.

Now a decade has passed.  My oldest daughter, who is named for my late uncle, is in the third grade and has two younger siblings.  Sam and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary three days ago with beer and a Packers win.  Every year on this day I remember that vet, I remember our fear and our deep sadness as we watched the towers come down and I shed a few tears.  It’s good to pause and reflect, but this year, because it’s the tenth anniversary, the memorials have been overwhelming.  They’ve come so fast and furious, I haven’t been able to find a still corner of my mind to think…which is why it was such a gift to see the readings for mass this morning.

Here’s a bit of the first one, from the book of Sirach:

“Wrath and anger are hateful things,

yet the sinner hugs them tight.

Forgive your neighbor’s injustice;

then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.

Could anyone nourish anger against another

and expect healing from the LORD?

Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself,

can he seek pardon for his own sins?”

And here’s today’s Psalm:

“The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.

He pardons all your iniquities,

heals all your ills.

redeems your life from destruction,

he crowns you with kindness and compassion.

He will not always chide,

nor does he keep his wrath forever.

Not according to our sins does he deal with us,

nor does he requite us according to our crimes.

For as the heavens are high above the earth,

so surpassing is his kindness toward those who fear him.

As far as the east is from the west,

so far has he put our transgressions from us.”

And the Gospel, from Matthew:

Peter approached Jesus and asked him,

“Lord, if my brother sins against me,

how often must I forgive?

As many as seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. ”

For Catholics, the readings are arranged in a three year cycle.  No one looked at the calendar and said, “Oh, forgiveness! that will be great for 9/11.”  It’s a happy accident, or serendipity or divine intervention.  Choose your pleasure or pick your poison.  When I first saw these yesterday as I was preparing for today’s Children’s Liturgy, I hadn’t associated them with 9/11.  I was thinking about talking to the kids about how hard it is to say, “I’m sorry” and how much easier it is to be the forgiver.  But this morning, these readings slapped me upside the head.  It is really expletive hard to forgive.  (I’ll try to clean up my language in the hour before church.)  That’s the job though.  That’s what we’re supposed to do.  If we’re using the anniversary of 9/11 to fan the flames of hatred we are missing the expletive point.  Mercy, compassion, kindness, and healing.  That is my 9/11 prayer for all of us.  All of us.

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