ESTER 4: 1-4, 8-10; MATTHEW 5:1-12

Patriot's Day

The human memory is much better understood today in its functioning, and yet it continues to be shrouded in much mystery.  For the contents of our memories are associated with a variety of modes depending on the nature of the experiences stored.  Certain words, for example, become linked to images at times; at other occasions the same word may evoke, not a particular scene, but rather a detached idea, or, more commonly, some strong emotion which in turn, often, is joined to a specific form or image.  These reflections occur spontaneously as we call to mind the attack that took place in this State of New York just twelve years ago today.  I still have a vivid picture in my mind that was shown on a TV screen shortly after the second tower was struck by the passenger plane and disintegrated, killing hundreds of people.  I for one associate the phrase "Patriot's Day" with that image.  As we commemorate this hostile and destructive assault at mass today we have a fuller grasp of the disastrous consequences that continue to result from the various events that were deliberately planned by an enemy so distant from us in culture as well as in location.  Serious persons are concerned lest the announced intent of our country to bomb Syria, if approved by the House expands the conflict to other countries.  We find ourselves exposed to the rule of unintended consequences.

The passing of some period of time was necessary before we could become aware of the extent of the damage done on 9/11 as that day of deadly encounter came to be called.  In those few minutes some three thousand persons were killed and immense damage was done not only economically, but morally and spiritually to our country.  Not the least consequence has been our involvement in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, that has brought heightened tensions with the Muslim world, and at present, threat of deeper engagement in violence with Syria and the possibility of involving the powerful allies of that country.  These include Russia and China as well as Iran.  We continue to live out the consequences of the 9/11 attack that we recall before the Lord at this mass.  The first reading at this Eucharist today brings to our attention the fact that the same patterns of human behavior we see being enacted at present are, unfortunately, firmly anchored in the ways of our race.  The prayer of Mordecai we have just heard in the first reading reminds us of this.  He was confronted with a royal decree that meant the destruction of the Jewish people in Assyria.  Mordecai states the case with anguish in the course of his prayer.  "And now, Lord God King , God of Abraham," he prays, "spare your people! For our ruin is being plotted. . . . have mercy on your heritage".  We can make this same prayer fittingly ours today.  For we are invited by today's commemoration of those whose lives were so abruptly taken 12 years ago to ask God's mercy on them, their families, and on our country, set on a harmful course resulting from the event.

Pope Francis, well informed by his representatives in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, is sufficiently alarmed at the very real and serious further danger to peace by the current circumstances that he has asked the whole Church to fast and pray for a peaceful resolution.  We join our prayer with his and those of the whole Church at the holy sacrifice of the Eucharist that He bestow mercy on the suffering peoples in the Middle East, including those being persecuted because of their faith in Christ.  May God shelter them from harm, preserve them in His grace, and bring exiles safely again to their homes in peace and security.  Amen.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger