Anniversary of 9/11
by Rev. Jerome A. Magat
What a day to have a Gospel reading about forgiveness! We ought to ask how can we apply the Gospel passage to 9/11? How can Jesusí words help us view that event through his eyes? To answer that, we should recall that the Lord himself is the primary and real Pardoner. Our powers of forgiveness are derived from his. If we donít forgive, Scripture reminds us that our unforgiveness will step between us and the Father and prevent our request from reaching Him. His pardon is pure grace, which is never founded on our worthiness, but creates it. If our hearts remained closed to forgiveness, we shut Godís forgiveness out. We should forgive because we should love. Thatís why forgiveness is so free Ė it springs form the joint work of human and divine pardon.
In part, forgiveness is a decision- itís a choice to refrain from retaliation, revenge, or a desire to take an eye-for-an-eye. Itís been said that "An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind."
Yet so many wanted to take an eye for an eye after 9/11. Referring to the terrorists, one politician announced: "God may have mercy on you, but we wonít!" That was anger speaking. And itís normal to feel angry when hurt or attacked. But we canít allow that anger to harden into bitterness, resentment, or a thirst for revenge. Adding evil to evil is the devilís work. To bring good out of evil is Godís work, and thatís where we come in. When we forgive, we bring an end to the cycle of violence and hate. If such forgiveness doesnít seem fair to us, weíre absolutely right! Forgiveness isnít fair. An eye-for-an-eye is fair. Strict justice is fair. Through forgiveness, we temper justice with mercy. As has often been said, "Justice is getting what you deserve. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. Grace is getting what you donít deserve." But does being forgiving people turn us into doormats or punching bags? Does it invite someone to hurt us over and over again? Does it encourage terrorists to strike again? Not at all. Forgiveness doesnít preclude justice. St. Pope John Paul II forgave the gunman who tried to assassinate him. But that gunman remained in prison. Dangerous criminals can be forgiven, and kept off the street at the same time. Terrorists can be forgiven, while we still act to protect our nation and innocent civilians. By forgiving them, however, we let go of the desire for revenge; by forgiving, we can view them and what they did, not through eyes of hate, but through eyes of love. Just as Jesus sees them- he who begs us to love our enemies. Indeed, it is they who are the very measure of our love. The Servant of God, Dorothy Day, put it well: "I really only love God, as much as I love the person I love the least." Jesus is forgiveness incarnate. We search in vain for the slightest trace of any reaction of his incompatible with pardon. Vengeance is farthest of all from his thoughts. As for the weighing and measuring of justice, Christ came precisely for this, but he elevated it to the unspeakably higher plane of grace beyond weight and measure, dissolving manís own injustice in the divine solvent of genuine pardon. He not only taught divine forgiveness, he lived it to the end. It cost him his life. Godís forgiveness didnít occur as a mere pardon but it came as a result of Christís expiatory sacrifice. Jesus didnít just cancel mankindís sin Ė he reestablished genuine justice. He didnít just cancel our debt Ė he repaid it with his sweat and blood and tears. This is at the root of Christian salvation and it is the foundation of our entire Christian existence. We live because of the saving act of Christ but we cannot remain saved unless we love our neighbor. And such love must become pardon Ė forgiveness Ė when our neighbor trespasses against us, as we constantly trespass against God. Pray with me today to enter more deeply into the spirit of Jesusí forgiveness, which is our very hope and our salvation.