Summary: Being a Christian is the result of an encounter with Jesus Christ, giving life a new horizon and decisive direction.

Thursday of 23rd Week in Course

and Commemoration of 9/11

Today we remember the events of September 11, 2001. That day, called nine-eleven, the whole world changed. In the Muslim world, it was an anniversary of the battle that raised the siege of Vienna, a huge defeat for the Muslim Turks, and the last great battle of the wars between Christians and Turks that began shortly after Muhammed’s death. For us, it is the anniversary of the terror bombings that took thousands of lives in NYC and Washington DC. It was the declaration of war between radical Islam and the West. The memory is sad, and scary.

What does Jesus say about such sadness and fear? “Love your enemies.” It can be no more blunt than this. We are to bless and pray for our persecutors. We are to pray for their good. That means, clearly, that we are to pray for their conversion and healing, for the failure of their bloody plots, and, short of that, for the success of those who by force must resist their manic attacks. I was principal at Central Catholic on that first 9-11, and when it was clear what was happening, I got on the PA and did exactly that–pray for our enemies, for their conversion, and for their failure.

So what, Holy Father, do you have to say to those who are most affected by such tragedies, by events that can only leave them sad? What is the joy of the gospel amid such pain?

Pope Francis responds: “There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter. I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved. I understand the grief of people who have to endure great suffering, yet slowly but surely we all have to let the joy of faith slowly revive as a quiet yet firm trust, even amid the greatest distress: “My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is… But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness… It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lam 3:17, 21-23, 26).

“7. Sometimes we are tempted to find excuses and complain, acting as if we could only be happy if a thousand conditions were met. To some extent this is because our “technological society has succeeded in multiplying occasions of pleasure, yet has found it very difficult to engender joy” I can say that the most beautiful and natural expressions of joy which I have seen in my life were in poor people who had little to hold on to. I also think of the real joy shown by others who, even amid pressing professional obligations, were able to preserve, in detachment and simplicity, a heart full of faith. In their own way, all these instances of joy flow from the infinite love of God, who has revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ. I never tire of repeating those words of Benedict XVI which take us to the very heart of the Gospel: “Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction”’

He continues: “Thanks solely to this encounter – or renewed encounter – with God’s love, which blossoms into an enriching friendship, we are liberated from our narrowness and self-absorption. We become fully human when we become more than human, when we let God bring us beyond ourselves in order to attain the fullest truth of our being. Here we find the source and inspiration of all our efforts at evangelization. For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?”

We are preparing for Welcome Sunday this next week, and for the time between Sunday and All Souls Day when we are especially challenged to share the love which restored meaning to our lives. Don’t pass up any opportunity to lightly evangelize, to invite another to share the joy that we receive when we receive Jesus in communion. Be aware at all moments of those around you, and, especially when they are sorrowful, be Jesus to them.