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Homily for tonight's solemn Requiem Mass:

The Readings and prayers were taken from the Mass In Time of War or Civil Disturbance.

Micah 4:1-4 (lectionary 897-2)
Psalm 72 (899-1)
Gal 5:17-26 (898-1)
Alleluia (900-1)
Matthew 5: 20-24 (901-1)

Prelude: God of our Fathers, America the Beautiful
Introit: Requiem Aeternam
Kyrie, Mass XVIII-B ad missam pro defunctus
Psalm 72, Alstott
Alleluia, Mode VI
Offertory: Pie Jesu, Faure
Sanctus, Mass XVIII
Mortem Tuam, chant
Agnus Dei, Mass XVIII
Communio: Lux Aeterna
Anthem: "I Heard a Voice from Heaven" Sir John Goss (1800-1880)
In Paradisum, Mode VII
Postlude: In Paradisum, Theodore Dubois

9/11 is a word or phrase that conjures up many images. There are few people in this country who, because of the power of news media and constantly re-played video images, have not seen these planes appearing with such force out of a calm cool morning to wreak violence and destruction on unsuspecting thousands. There are few who have not seen and witnessed the images of those mighty buildings, suddenly and so horribly dissolving in a cloud of dust.

So many lives were irretrievably altered in one moment.

Millions were affected.

“Husbands and wives lost their spouses. Children lost their mothers and fathers. The grief provoked by such a horrific event cannot be measured. It never really goes away. Five years after the events of September 11th, there remains a terrible void in countless lives.”
We do not need any words to help us remember. The images and the memory are so vivid. So we must pray. We must gather in the Lord’s name to be his people and to gather his strength and healing.

We pray for those who died. It is difficult to imagine the moments they suffered so violently. We pray for the survivors, for those who are left behind and are still rebuilding their lives and their dreams. And as difficult as it may seem, yet in obedience to the Lord Jesus, we also pray for those who persecute us [Mat 5:44].

With events such as these it is difficult, yet most necessary, for us to confront the cross of Jesus Christ. His death was no less violent or brutal, yet here he asks the Father to forgive those who bound him to the cross because they do not know what they are doing.

I believe that those who persecute the innocent in these acts of terror know exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it. Yet we must turn away from them to challenge our own hearts.

Forgiveness takes time but it is a free and unconditional choice. It is an act of the will, not of the emotions. Justice may never be possible, but forgiveness is different from justice. Forgiveness is not about condoning; the injury remains unjust and undeserved. We have a right to defend our homes and our land, but we have an eternal obligation to defend our own heart from becoming a vessel of anger and hatred, consumed by bitterness and fear. And it takes a change of heart, a conversion, a realization that old ways are not working and are even more destructive.

Forgiveness, mercy, even pity is not easy, and is certainly not even accomplished in one moment or one day, but it has to be considered as an option. For here the Lord Jesus enters our world, not simply as an enlightened prophet who might come to us with “Thus says the Lord.” No, he comes as Divine lawgiver with “You’ve heard that it was said.”

Where was it said? It was in the Law, the Torah, the ancient book of the covenant, the Word of God. So he stands in the place, in the person, and as living Word of God and says, “But I say‚Ķ!” “Whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.”

This is no mere law, this is not accomplished in simple observance, this isn’t addressed to cities, counties and governments; it is addressed to the human heart. Christ does not reject the law, instead he intensifies it. The law now is more demanding because it places conditions, not just on our external observance, “but above all on the abiding attitude of our heart and on the concrete results that this attitude has on our actions.” [Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis]

Our persecutors are not here. We are; and what kind of people shall we be? The prophet Micah offers us a vision where “every man shall sit under his own vine or under his own fig tree, undisturbed.”[Micah 4:4] The apostle Paul instructs us that hatred and outbursts of fury are works of the flesh, and that there is no law against patience, generosity, or self-control.

Radical Islam would label us as infidel and instruct its members to eliminate us. It is the same kind of violence that radical Christian fundamentalism gave birth to in Oklahoma City. All of these are the work of the flesh and have nothing to do with those who seek the heart of God. We will not be defeated if we respond with extreme faithfulness to the call of Christ, to attend to our own heart and become people who will be celebrated, not as infidels, but as the most faithful to the Cross of Christ, which stands, not as a symbol of defeat, but a cross of victory. Rather, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head." [Rom 12:20]

This is not a message that I would expect to find acceptance in the halls of power. This is not intended to address their obligation to defend our homeland. This is only for those who have gathered in prayer this night, who are challenged by the Gospel of Christ to examine their own hearts, to see if they be places of violence or a place where God would dwell. If we become angry, vengeful, bitter people, then we have been conquered. We shall not be conquered. Only in Christ shall we see the victory, only in him is death swallowed up in victory. Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. [1 Cor 15:54-58]

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I wonder how common this was in Catholic circles across the country.
Most parishes of which I heard seemed to join in ecumenical, essentially civic ceremonies.
I commend you.

A thoughful, challenging and appropriate homliy, Father.

The Knights of Columbus magazine informed us that Pope Benedict XVI asked for us to pray for the terrorists too.

Father Jeff,

What readings were proclaimed at the Mass?

Even further, I think it is time for us to reflect on the violence that has been done in our name in the last 5 years.

Surely, in response to the first comment, this would have been a splendid opportunity for ecumenical and interfaith services that were genuinely religious!

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This page contains a single entry by Fr. Jeffrey Keyes, C.PP.S. published on September 11, 2006 5:01 PM.

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