The body of Franciscan Friar Mychal Judge, is
carried from the site of the Twin Towers. Father
Mychal, a fire department chaplain, was designated
as victim # 1 of the attacks.
Time Magazine ran an article on how preachers should approach this weekend. Picking up on the themes in the cycle of liturgical readings shared by Catholics, Lutherans, Anglican/Episcopalians, and several other Churches, the obvious message was reconciliation and forgiveness. That did not go over well in the blogosphere where the usual crazies were fast to weigh in on how Muslims hate Christians and want to destroy Christianity and impose Sharia law on everyone. (It never seems to hit these same people that there are plenty of Christians who want to impose their particular beliefs on society as well. But then of course Christian beliefs come from God while non-Christian beliefs are, at best, man-devised and thus not worthy of consideration.)
I remember being at a Papal Audience on September 12, 2001. The pope had much to say by means of words of consolation to the American people but he also told us not to blame Islam. Two weeks later John Paul visited Kazakhstan where he quoted Islamic scriptures, poetry, and writers to highlight a message of peace and harmony between Islam and Christianity. We must continue to work building bridges of understanding among peoples of all religions and no religion. We need to cultivate a culture of tolerance and more than tolerance, but an active respect for one another and for each other’s beliefs. We need a culture of dialogue. I was once confident that our Catholic Church was encouraging that. I am not so sure now. Granted, Pope Benedict XVI has convoked another multi-religious gathering in Assisi for prayer this October. But on a local level all I hear are negative comments about those whose faith and religious practices are different than ours. Even among Christians, the ecumenical movement is all but dead. Now Episcopalians and Lutherans and Methodists and Presbyterians are derided because they don’t agree with us on same-sex marriage or they ordain women or they do not view abortion through the prism of protecting the life of the unborn. I am no syncretist. I am a Catholic because I believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ contains God’s Revelation to humankind in a way that surpasses other religious traditions and I believe that the Catholic Church has preserved the integrity of that Gospel not as perfectly as it might have but even more authentically than various other Christian groups have. That is not to say that I do not respect other religions or other Christian Churches and it is not to say that I do not recognize great truths—human and revealed—in them, but only that in my hearing the Catholic tone rings most clear and true. Nonetheless, I know that I have much to learn not only from other Christians but from other peoples of various religions and from non-believers. And I want to live in a society that is open to truth and the search for truth, not a society in which one religious group or another are so convinced of the monopoly on the truth that there is no need for discussion and dialogue. Religion can be a force for human community or it can be a force against it. Those who engineered the assaults of September 11th used religion to divide and attack. Those who advocate sectarianism in our society today are no better. But those who bear the vision that in the fullness of time all things in heaven and on earth are to be summed up in Christ know that the path of mutual respect and sincere dialogue is the way to peace.