DENVER — The 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States is a chance to mourn and honor those who died, as well as to choose love over hatred, Archbishop Samuel Aquila said.
“The fruit of people hating their fellow man is that they end up hating God. Their religion becomes warped and twisted by their hatred for their neighbor,” the Denver archbishop said in his Sept. 11 column for the Denver Catholic Register.
Hatred and death were never meant to be a part of creation, but they came about when Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, later leading up to the first murder, when Cain killed his brother Abel out of jealousy.
Archbishop Aquila quoted professor Heinrich Ott of Basel University in Switzerland, who spoke during the International Christian-Islamic Round Table discussions between 2000 and 2008, saying that hatred of fellow man results in the hatred of God and vice versa, while the same is true of love for fellow man and love of God.
“The two loves are intertwined; you cannot love God and hate man, who is made in his image and likeness. No true religion allows this combination,” Archbishop Aquila said.
While yielding to hatred is “easy,” the result of such a decision is “disastrous,” he said, pointing to the violence being committed in the name of religion by the likes of ISIS and Boko Haram, which fills the news cycle each day.
“Hatred is what fuels the distortion of religion and twists it into violence, as we saw on Sept. 11.”
However, rather than despising those who persecute us, he said, we as Christians should look to the Virgin Mary as an example of how to love in the face of hatred and violence.
Although she witnessed the lifelong persecution of her son by the likes of Herod to the scribes and Pharisees and finally his executioners, Mary chose to love her neighbor, and as a result, loved God.
This is not an easy task and is not something that man can do on his own, the archbishop acknowledged.
“We must ask God for the outpouring of his love and the grace to resist hatred with love for our fellow man,” he wrote.
Archbishop Aquila also pointed to St. Peter Claver, the Jesuit missionary whose feast day the Church celebrated Sept. 9, as another example of how to love our fellow man in the face of cruelty.
The saint witnessed the horrors of man’s brutality while serving in a Colombian slave port during the early 1600s. In the face of such evil, he sought to bring comfort to the hundreds of thousands of people who were shipped as cargo to the New World, bringing nourishment, medical attention on board the slave ships as they docked.
Archbishop Aquila’s full column can be found here.