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Bishop Jaime Soto

Joy and Hope

by Bishop
Jaime Soto

 

 

 

 

Clarity of vision comes from hope, not hatred

 

The following is my homily from the Mass celebrated on the commemoration of the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001.

 

“O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!”

 

This verse from the popular American hymn, “America the Beautiful,” always comes to my mind around the commemoration of the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001. It was the verse recited by Dan Rather on the David Letterman show the following night. He recited the words “Thine alabaster cities gleam undimmed by human tears” and then tearfully said that these words will never mean the same.

 

I left Manhattan on the morning of that fateful 9-11. I had finished a conference, enjoyed an evening with friends and was taking a taxi down Eighth Avenue in the early morning on the way to Newark Airport. I remember that morning. The New York sky was brilliantly clear, so much so that the morning sun gleamed undimmed off the twin towers. The next time I saw the towers I was on the tarmac. I looked in horror and disbelief as huge clouds of smoke billowed from them. My plane never left.

 

Later that evening from the cathedral rectory in Newark where I was fortunate to spend the next few days, I looked out towards Manhattan. The towers were gone. All there was to see were huge columns of smokes where the once alabaster towers once gleamed.

 

During that fateful day, a providential set of circumstances placed me at the police command center in the airport where I sat and listened to police and firemen on alert, rushing around, uncertain in those early hours after the attack whether there was more to come. There was a palpable blind angry rage.

 

People were worried about colleagues who worked around the towers. They were frustrated that communication lines were broken or overloaded. How many? Who? Why? These were all the questions that rushed around the command center in those moments. And the blind, angry rage. It was understandable, certainly most understandable.

 

Jesus gives us a provocative metaphor, “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit?” (Lk. 6:39-42) We stand now eight years from that frightful moment when blind hatred struck a harsh, heavy blow at the American people.

 

A lot has transpired since those days. America struck back. The efforts to put an end to the terror continue, as do the mounting number of lives lost, Americans as well as thousands of others in Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries.

 

This country has long pondered the reasons we entered the conflict and the reasons we continue to pursue this cause. There is much to consider and future decisions will affect many more lives. Terror and its agents have plundered the technologies of a global society and created networks of a blind hatred that move like a virus through the world. In one manner or another we must struggle against it for our own sake as well as for the welfare of others.

 

The question is, will our response follow blindly the hatred of others? Will their visceral distain for human life dictate us to follow in like manner? Jesus in the Gospel challenges us to see clearly. This clarity of vision and clearness of purpose must come from hope not hatred. Fear will blind us. Hope will heal that blindness and give us the certainty to see us through the still difficult and daunting way from the harrowing dark clouds of hatred to the undimmed gleam of peace.

 

This hopeful ambition finds a consoling glimmer in the title of the Holy Father’s recent encyclical: “Caritas in Veritate,” Charity in Truth. In the end, this is what must last: charity in truth.

 

For this we pray for ourselves, our leaders, the men and women who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, the men and women who still give their lives in distant lands, and for all of God’s people who yearn to enjoy freedom in peace.

 

“America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!”

 

 

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