How many people here remember September 11? Actually, I think the oldest students here were only 4 or 5 when it happened, which, even though I’m young, still makes me feel old. I can only imagine what someone a little older than me must be thinking (i.e. Fr. Don…) Probably most of the adults here remember, and might even remember where we were when we first heard about it. There’s something about extreme instances of tragedy or emotion that makes it stick in your mind. I remember where I was. I was waiting for my Junior year Spanish class to start at Saint Louis U. High. Someone came in and mentioned that there had been a big accident in New York, and there was a lot of commotion in the halls, so we turned on the classroom TV and tuned into the news. I remember all the terrible images there on the TV – smoke and flames and confusion. It was pretty clear by the time we learned what had happened that it wasn’t an accident, it was terrorism. It was an act of hatred. So what was my first reaction? “Someone is going to pay for this.” “Someone is going down.” “Someone is going to be punished for this.” In my anger, I wanted to respond to hatred with hatred, and violence with violence, and there were a lot of other people like me throughout the country.
But what is it that Jesus teaches us in the Gospel today? He says, “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you, and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.” What? Are you kidding me? When we get hurt, when someone treats us bad, we want to hurt them back, right? But what is Jesus asking of us? To meet violence with concern. To meet pain with compassion. To meet aggression with support. To meet hatred with love. In the midst of all that pain and hurt that we might experience in our lives, no matter who’s fault, we’re called to service.
We remember a lot of examples of service today. In New York we had Battalion Chief Orio Palmer, who climbed 34 stories to do whatever was needed to help people in the South Tower of the World Trade Center. We have Officer Richard Rodriguez of the New York Police Department, who was credited with saving many lives before he was killed when the south tower collapsed. We have Fr. Mike Judge, the New York fire chaplain, who offered prayers and aid for the rescuers, the injured, and the dead before he himself was killed. Look at out guests with us here today. We are joined by firefighters, law enforcement officers, emergency workers, military men and women. They encounter pain and suffering every single day – it’s part of their job. But as Jesus calls us to, they do what they can to respond in service to our community and our country. And we thank you for that service today.
Today is an opportunity for us. It’s an opportunity to remember the service and the sacrifice of those who found themselves offering service 11 years ago, and to be grateful for their service. But it’s also an opportunity for us to rededicate ourselves too to being people of the Gospel, that even in the face of tragedy and pain and hatred, we will strive to servants of others.