Christ himself said it best:
“My command to you is: Love your enemies, pray for your persecutors. This will prove that you are sons of your heavenly Father, for his sun rises on the bad and the good. He rains on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:44-46).
Working at ground zero following
With no tangible target, the past five years have been marked with growing frustration and division — with hatred spreading like an infection.
Some have suggested to me that the
My memories of Sept.11, 2001, are
of me sitting in a Bronx firehouse, watching the morning news as the
Knowing an aggressive interior attack is our protocol, I held back tears because I knew hundreds of firefighters (many of whom I knew personally) had just perished before my eyes. The following months were marked by a massive rescue-and-recovery operation that took us away from home and family for days and weeks between visits. Free time was spent attending the funerals of our members — usually several each day. I needed to be there and thus was torn between duty and family.
Included in the massive death toll were 343 fellow firefighters.
Men who taught me to be a firefighter, shared good, as well as bad times. They came to weddings, Christmas parties, baptisms and funerals. These were not just co-workers. They were family — brothers-in-law, fathers, sons, etc.
However, these are not the only victims.
After attending funeral after funeral, I began to feel hatred for those I knew hated me, and convinced myself I was justified based on the enormous evil I had witnessed and the support of like-minded friends.
This was the spiritual part of the attack. Personally, I had been wounded, but I knew God did not condone hate. We have a right to strive and pray for justice, but not to judge.
So what is the difference? Justice, in the dictionary, is “the administration of law based on what is just; that is, what is deserved, merited and fair.” Judgment, on the other hand, implies looking into a person’s soul and knowing what inspires their actions.
This God alone knows.
Those they left behind continue to
suffer. Chronic lung problems and other afflictions are beginning to appear.
Worst of all, so many of us suffer from the infection of hatred. Evil attacked in a twofold way, physically and spiritually. Hatred separates us from God. Here it filled the emotional void created by witnessing this horror. Hatred provides a quick solution to how we should feel and an outlet for our rage. Hatred also is the seed from which the need for vengeance grows.
Unfortunately, because of the large number of us — a whole nation in fact — that were hurt, it also becomes something to share, like the qualifications for entry into a club. We do not want to shed the hatred for fear we will have little to share with each other. Thus, this consuming emotion becomes habitual.
Evil generated a hateful attack on
From his book Love, Marriage and Children, Archbishop Fulton Sheen says this about evil habits:
“While (Saint) Paul acted on the ideal of hate, he persecuted; when he changed his ideal, he became the great apostle. When one has discovered a new ideal, such a one then is prepared to make sacrifices for that ideal, on the basis of exchange.”
The ideal of hatred needs to be changed to the ideal of God’s love, diverting the energy used to hate and directing it towards love, exchanging one for the other. Tragedy, trials and affliction can build character and fortitude.
I have personally spoken to people who question the existence of a God who could allow such suffering. The paradox is that our suffering is the key to recognizing God’s love. Pope John Paul II explains it this way in his book Crossing the Threshold of Hope:
“The crucified Christ is proof of God’s solidarity with man in his suffering. … If the agony on the cross had not happened, the truth that God is Love would be unfounded.”
In the midst of catastrophe, as the towers collapsed, two pieces of steel fell, separated from the burning rubble, and formed a cross, the sign of hope and perfect love.
The appearance of this cross wasn’t to remove the rubble, and return our friends, but to remind us that God is always present. He does not abandon us! This life is just a stepping stone to everlasting life won for us by the Resurrection.
I believe we can “exchange” the emotion of hate for our attackers with the empowering emotion of love for all, especially those who suffer, and for Almighty God.
Satan most certainly does not want this exchange to occur because, rejuvenated in mind, body and spirit, we will be better soldiers for Christ. That is the cure for this “infection.” Let us not allow evil to be victorious by allowing hatred a home in our hearts. The quote from Matthew 5:44-46 above pretty much says it all.
Jesus calls it his “command,” and it may be one of the hardest practices that we as Catholics have to live. Approaching the quest for justice without judgment and hate will remove the need for revenge.
May God bless all that continue to suffer from their loss on Sept. 11, 2001, and may he heal us all from the 9/11 infection.
Lt. Francis M. Moore, a retired