The day after 9/11, Pope John Paul II on his Wednesday address to the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square said, “I cannot begin this audience without expressing my profound sorrow at the terrorist attacks which yesterday brought death and destruction to America, causing thousands of victims and injuring countless people…Yesterday was a dark day in the history of humanity, a terrible affront to human dignity. After receiving the news, I followed with intense concern the developing situation, with heartfelt prayers to the Lord. How is it possible to commit acts of such savage cruelty? The human heart has depths from which schemes of unheard-of ferocity sometimes emerge, capable of destroying in a moment the normal daily life of a people. But faith comes to our aid at these times when words seem to fail. Christ’s word is the only one that can give a response to the questions which trouble our spirit. Even if the forces of darkness appear to prevail, those who believe in God know that evil and death do not have the final say. Christian hope is based on this truth; at this time our prayerful trust draws strength from it…”
We remember September 11 with pain. Let us try to imagine we were on the ground running to save our lives or running to someone else. What will be our mental and emotional condition? It is hard to explain, isn’t it? Today we remember all those who died on that day, all those who did heroic action to save a life, and pray for them. Did we change a lot since 9/11? It seems to me what I heard about America before I came and since I came, I met a different America. If we watch the news, we hear about hate and unrest these days. Did we change?
It is very meaningful that we have beautiful readings about forgiveness. The first reading ends with a good reminding and gives us a challenge, “Remember your last days, set enmity aside; remember death and decay, and cease from sin! Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor; remember the Most High’s covenant, and overlook faults.”
The Gospel brings a similar message. We have seen Peter the last couple of weeks in the Gospel. The first one was, Peter proclaims the Faith, the second one was, Jesus, telling Peter, “Get behind me, Satan”. Here Peter proudly asks, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?” What was Jesus answer, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.” In other words, Jesus was telling Peter and the listeners that there is no limit. If we look at the book of Genesis 4: 23-24, we see Lamech, who is a sixth-generation descendent of Cane, said to his wives, “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; wives of Lamech, listen to my utterance: I have killed a man for wounding me, a man for bruising me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.” In the house of Cain, they had an unending avenge.
Jesus put forward a new guideline for Christian life. Jesus replaced the Old Testament view with love and forgiveness. The first part of the Gospel is a personal dimension of forgiveness. In the second part of the Gospel, Jesus tells a story to tell them the communal dimension of forgiveness.
The second reading, Paul discusses with Christians in Rome when there were tensions among them between the Gentile Christians and the Jewish Christians on the matter of law. Apostle Paul reminds them that Christians are adopted sisters and brothers of Jesus, so there is no place of hatred and bitterness. Paul says, “None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself.” The second reading sums up the entire reading. So let us ask a question, where are we today as Christian and as an American?