Reflection for Sunday, September 11, 2005: 24th week in Ordinary Time.

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Gillick, Larry, S.J.
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PRE-PRAYERING | There is an amazing coincidence of our liturgical readings and the events of four years ago today. We can all remember where we were when we heard of the first plane, perhaps accidentally crashing into the World Trade Center. Then we saw or heard that a second plane had done the same and that a third plane had gone down in the attempt to destroy some other place. We are praying with the memories of our losses, our sense of having been attacked. Our national sense of security had been broken into by foreign invaders. We were hurt, bewildered, angry and full of resentment and vengeance.|Four years later to the day, we are praying for this mysterious reality of forgiving. We prepare for the celebration of our being saved through the violent death of Jesus and His Resurrection, by reflecting on just how hard it is to do the merciful thing, even to our receiving forgiveness in our daily fumbling.|There is in each of us such a strong sense of strict justice. Forgiveness is not an easy grace for which to pray, though our being forgiven lies at the center of Christ's redemptive life. We are invited by today's liturgical readings to pray, at least for the desire to desire this divine gift and then little-by-little "seventy-seven times" will not seem impossible. We may also have to ask for the grace of receiving forgiveness ourselves from God and perhaps even just one other person.| REFLECTION | "Wrath and anger are hateful things..." These are the first words of our First Reading today. The remainder of the reading compares how God deals with us with how we can deal with others. God is merciful and we are invited to remember God's forgiving us when we are presented with the option of mercy or justice in response to our being injured.|The Gospel is so clear it embarrasses us. We need little assistance to find the not-so-hidden meaning in the story Jesus tells. The "wicked servant" is forgiven a huge debt by his master, but then turns on his fellow servants to pay him back small debts. Forgiving from the heart is the invitation, but it is so hard to respond. Injury calls for redress and injury provides a subtle power to the injured.|Each of us will be thinking during these readings of people whom we have not forgiven. That is embarrassing to hear this story and know the names of our unforgivens. What is also embarrassing is how we love the experiences and memories of our being excused, forgiven, re-embraced.|The images of 9.11.01 are present to us during the proclamations of today's readings: the Twin Towers, fires, collapsing, falling bodies and the sounds of terror. How do we pray today as we stand at the foot of the single Tower of peace, mercy, and receptivity? We could employ simple analysis with which we could assume the spectacles of the many countries with whom our nation has not dealt justly. Non-Christian religions have some cause for distrusting and even hating Christianity. This is history which can result in a relationship of ever-increasing violence. Forgiveness is not exactly logical, just as love is not.|Forgiving is not the same as forgetting. We can never forget those pictures and sounds of four years ago today. I did not lose any family or friends; if I did I might not be able to write this reflection. The following is very difficult to say however.|If our powerful nations vengefully go after and destroy those forces who attacked us because of our greed, religious intolerance or insensitivity and then our nations continue injurious actions, then in time we will be nine-elevened again.|We stand before the Single Tower of World-Love and ask God's mercy on us who have been the violators of other countries, peoples and religions. I am an American! I am also aware of our history, our self-interestedness, and our lack of justice in relating with smaller and poorer nations. As a nation, I know we cannot ask the oppressed for forgiveness, politically speaking. Today we Americans can pray to receive God's forgiveness for our country's historical sins. If we can receive God's forgiveness then we just might find the grace to forgive those who punished us so cruelly. Vengeance begets vengeance, but mercy, which is above all God's works, will be the international experience.|Justice is a compassionate virtue which discards violence as an easy Option. With the holy water of our tears of grieving, we remember the horror and vengeful feelings we all had and maybe still have. The challenge of Jesus is to be a forgiven American and live in such a way that we can reverse the spiral of vengeance downwards and resurrect a true world-center trading in mercy, respect, and justice for all.|"The vengeful will suffer the Lord's vengeance, for He remembers their sins in detail. Forgive your neighbor's injustice; then your own sins will be forgiven." Sirach
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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