9/11 Liturgy at Saint Peter the Apostle Church, Naples, FL
Revelation 21, 1-7 + Matthew 5, 1-12
This assembly in a house of prayer is much more than a memorial about a horrible event in the past. If we were to gather here to memorialize horrible historical events, we would never be able to leave. We would commemorate assassinations, bombings, hijackings, riots, genocide, school shootings, and way more besides. This day and our assembly cannot be just about the past. A cross made from the debris of the Twin Towers and piece of stone from the Pentagon lie here before us to say without words what hatred can do. Yet, we place them before an altar which speaks wordlessly about what sacrificial love can do. One is a reminder of hatred expressed in death and destruction. The other is reminder of love expressed in sacrifice and salvation. Think of it this way. People motivated by hatred destroy and kill. People motivated by love buildup and save. Some believe that they have a right to kill people because they disagree with them, while others believe it is worth suffering or sacrificing one’s own life to preserve the right to disagree.
The Gospel we just proclaimed takes place on a hill, says Matthew. On that hill the core principles that shape the lives of those who give life rather than take life are put before us. Being poor in spirit has nothing to do with economics. It is the characteristic of a people who rely on God alone knowing that without God they can do nothing. The meek are not weak. This is about strength under control and power being used with wise restraint. The sorrow that comes from mourning can also stir up our hope because it can show us the essential kindness of our fellow human beings who will pour out everything to comfort and help those who are hurting. This mercy put before us is way more than feeling sorry for someone or having pity. Mercy is about the ability to get into another’s skin, to walk in their shoes. It is a kind of sympathy that comes from a deliberate identification with another person seeing what they see and feeling what they feel. That’s mercy. It is real understanding. Nutrition is not the point of feeding the hungry. It is a desire to satisfy the deepest of human needs which is always the comfort of presence and respect. The Pure of Heart are simply people whose lives are not mixed up or conflicted by many motives. They don’t do good to be admired. They do good because they are, and they know that the basis of human peace is peace with God that comes with Justice. All of this is given credibility in the end by action. It is always what we do that gives credibility to what we say. So, Jesus speaks on a hill, then he does something on another hill. He lays down his life. He suffers and He saves.
The point of our assembly here today must be the future, not just the past. In the face of destruction and even death, people who live and who are “Beatitude” or people who are a Blessing, are people of hope never revenge. They are people of respect, patience, and tolerance confident that all will be well in the Kingdom of God. They are people like you responders inspired by the sacrifice of those we remember today. By your service and sacrifice, we are moving in the right direction, toward the Kingdom of Heaven every time there is sacrifice to save another.