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Catholic Voice
  September 5, 2011   •   VOL. 49, NO. 15   •   Oakland, CA
Bishop's Column

Christ is the answer to violence

Sept. 11, 2001 has become one of those dates in which everyone remembers exactly where they were and how they learned the news of the tragic and horrendous history-changing event that occurred on that day, similar to the dates of Nov. 22, 1963 and Dec. 7, 1941, for those old enough to remember the assassination of President Kennedy or the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

As we mark the 10th anniversary of “9/11” this year, it is clear that none of us will ever forget the terror we felt on that day, and for weeks and months afterwards. And it is good not to forget.

As Pope John Paul II remarked in his General Audience the day after the terrorist attacks: “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.”

Christ, then, is the answer to the violence we see erupting all around us. Not war, not intolerance, not bigotry. And that violence is not isolated in far-off regions; it is literally all around us, in our own neighborhoods. We need only think of the outbreak of violence at the Raiders-49ers game on Aug. 21, which resulted, among other things, in the shooting of two men and the severe beating of a third. Not only is the violence not far-off, neither are those “schemes of unheard-of ferocity” which emerge from the depths of the human heart.
If Christ is the answer, then faith is essential to the project of peace-building, and thus, so is the role of religion in public life. It is our religious faith that teaches and enables us to refrain from retaliating in kind, knowing that violence begets violence.

As Blessed John Paul II also stated in his address to Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See on Jan. 13, 2003: “War is not always inevitable; it is always a defeat for humanity.” It is also our religious faith that teaches and enables us to refrain from painting large categories of people with broad strokes based on the extremist actions of a few. Most especially at this moment of history, it is our religious faith that teaches and enables us to reach out in friendship to our neighbors of the Muslim faith to deepen mutual understanding and work together for the building of peace.

On the same occasion earlier this year, Pope Benedict XVI told the diplomats accredited to the Holy See that when religious believers are free to practice their faith, society benefits from an increase in upright behavior, respect for others and solidarity with the poor and weak (Jan. 10, 2011). In that same speech, he quoted from his message for World Day of Prayer for Peace issued three days before:

“How can anyone deny the contribution of the world’s great religions to the development of civilization? The sincere search for God has led to greater respect for human dignity.

“Christian communities, with their patrimony of values and principles, have contributed much to making individuals and peoples aware of their identity and their dignity, the establishment of democratic institutions and the recognition of human rights and their corresponding duties.

“Today too, in an increasingly globalized society, Christians are called, not only through their responsible involvement in civic, economic and political life but also through the witness of their charity and faith, to offer a valuable contribution to the laborious and stimulating pursuit of justice, integral human development and the right ordering of human affairs.”

As we mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11 — the memory of which will always jar us — let us ask God for the grace to redouble our efforts to live our faith integrally in our public, professional and private lives. Christ is the answer, and the more we are identified to him in every aspect of our lives, the more the world will know the peace, justice and love that only he can give.

I conclude by offering as a meditation at this sober moment of history the prayer which Pope Benedict composed and which he prayed at “ground zero” during his visit to New York on April 20, 2008:

O God of love, compassion, and healing, look on us, people of many different faiths and traditions, who gather today at this site, the scene of incredible violence and pain.

We ask you in your goodness to give eternal light and peace to all who died here — the heroic first-responders: our firefighters, police officers, emergency service workers and Port Authority personnel, along with all the innocent men and women who were victims of this tragedy simply because their work or service brought them here on Sept. 11, 2001.

We ask you, in your compassion, to bring healing to those who, because of their presence here that day, suffer from injuries and illness.

Heal, too, the pain of still-grieving families and all who lost loved ones in this tragedy. Give them strength to continue their lives with courage and hope.

We are mindful as well of those who suffered death, injury, and loss on the same day at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Our hearts are one with theirs as our prayer embraces their pain and suffering. God of peace, bring your peace to our violent world: peace in the hearts of all men and women and peace among the nations of the earth.

Turn to your way of love those whose hearts and minds are consumed with hatred. God of understanding, overwhelmed by the magnitude of this tragedy, we seek your light and guidance as we confront such terrible events.

Grant that those whose lives were spared may live so that the lives lost here may not have been lost in vain.

Comfort and console us, strengthen us in hope, and give us the wisdom and courage to work tirelessly for a world where true peace and love reign among nations and in the hearts of all. Amen.

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