Mercy and 9/11
As our nation pauses Sunday to mark the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, we call to mind that dark day in our history occurred shortly after Bishop John J. Myers, the seventh Bishop of Peoria and an Earlville native, was named Archbishop of Newark. The New Jersey archdiocese is located just across the Hudson River from Manhattan.
One of Archbishop Myers’ first actions in his new archdiocese after his Oct. 9 installation was to issue a pastoral letter, “If God is For Us, Who Can Be Against Us? Reflections on Faith and Terrorism.” It is found easily online and makes for a fitting reflection this weekend.
Here, however, we point out just the four paragraphs in which Archbishop Myers addressed the questions: “How can I possibly forgive those responsible for these attacks?” and “Can God really demand of me that I love my enemy?”
“In the face of such evil, it can often seem impossible to forgive and to love those who hate us,” he wrote. “If we were simply talking of feelings, it would be quite difficult. But God does not demand that we feel loving or forgiving to our enemies, only that we freely choose to love and to forgive. Our choices are always in our control.”
We must want and work for what is truly best for our enemies, Archbishop Myers continued, even as we can rightfully want those who do evil brought to justice.
He then posed a challenge that applies to all of us, especially in this Year of Mercy.
“Being forced to face the great demands that Gospel love places upon us, this tragedy can be for us an opportunity to re-evaluate our relationships with others,” wrote Archbishop Myers. “Too often we allow people to remain estranged and separated from us sometimes for relatively small reasons. Events like these remind us that life here and now is short and our time together precious. Now is the time for us to be reconciled to God and to each other.”
It was true then, and is true now. — Thomas J. Dermody