Thursday, September 11, 2014

Over There

It's easy for us to desensitize ourselves to death when it's "over there".  The memories of 9/11 are difficult for Americans because we saw it happen here. The people that suffered and died were familiar. They were like us. They were us.

But when we allows ourselves to move out of the insulated conditioning that most of us live with, we see the world differently. When we see life through the perspective of the Kingdom of God, we realize that "they", "those people", the ones "over there", are familiar as well. They are like us. They are us.

This is an email that I received this last year from a dear friend of mine, and fellow Franciscan brother. Feel the pain that he is feeling because he has chosen to see the world through this perspective. As I said in my previous blog, when we allow ourselves to mourn the loss of life anywhere in this world, the Kingdom of God is realized just a little more than it was before.

Hello All:  Asking for you to remember me in prayer today.  I believed I had made it through the 9/11 memorials without personal incident.  I avoided all references to the occasion.  But this morning as I read facebook and emails from yesterday I had a huge upwelling of anger and frustration.  I struggle with my friends and countrymen's obsession with our own losses, ignoring the massive loss of innocent life our acts of retribution have caused.  My mind flashed back to entering Baghdad in the first few days of "liberation" and seeing the city covered in small black mourning banners.    Individual families had made these banners to announce the death of a child, daughter, mother or some loved one. Estimates are 140,000 innocent civilians died in Iraq directly from warfare, the secondary death numbers are estimated at up to a million.  I have a banner I picked up from a ditch that I keep in a box in the back of my closet in memory of my complicity in the death of all the innocents.  I will carry that memory with me forever.  I try to see the experience as an uncomfortable blessing and guidance from God.  I thank you for your patience in allowing me to express my feelings this day.  Please pray for my anger to subside and that the love of Christ fills me today so that I can be a reflection of Gods love to all I encounter. 

Thank you. God Bless.

Shalom or Pax?

For me, the most memorable aspect of 9/11 is the expressions of anger and hatred. It's easy to be angry, and quite understandable considering what we all witnessed. But each year since, as we remember those who lost their lives, as well as those who have given their lives in war, I have found myself no longer choosing to feel anger. There is no one that I choose to hate. Instead, I feel a profound sense of sadness. Sadness because of how fallen and dark our world can be. Sadness that sometimes evil has it's way with us, overwhelms us and for a while, wins.   

Last year, a friend of mine offered some very wise words in how we can honor those who died on 9/11, those who have given their lives in war and those who have lost loved ones since. Rather than choosing anger and hatred toward those who choose to hate us, let us choose to follow the words of Christ and return that hate with love and prayer. As contrary as it is to our nature, this is the only way to truly honor them. Why? Because it's the only thing that will lead us to true peace: Shalom. And is that not what they would want for this world? 

Shalom is a perfect peace not dependent on circumstances and a peace that God intended each of us to have from the beginning. We may not realize it, but we posses this deep in the recesses of our soul. This is what Jesus was talking about when He said: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." We so often base our lives and rely on worldly peace: PAX, a peace as the world knows it. This is peace that is dependent on circumstances and as we all know, that peace can be blown away by a few planes and crumbling buildings.

The only way to for us to end violence, war and terror in this world is for us to choose shalom rather than pax. As it is each year on the anniversary of 9/11, my prayer is that we can find a way to release the anger that we cling to. Regardless of how vehemently our natural spirit fights in contrast to this, let us choose forgiveness and love. Let us lose ourselves and be consumed with prayer, not dreams of hatred and vengeance. Let us choose to promote true and lasting peace.