Connie and Maureen Meehan worked together as Physical Therapists in the late 1980s. Bill Meehan kept dinner lively with his engaging New York attitude. Occasionally, we babysat for the Meehans. Little Billy’s first grade picture graced their refrigerator. On Picture Day, Billy came to breakfast with only one eyebrow, at first denying playing with his father’s razor. On September 11th, 2001 Bill was well into his day as Chief Market Analyst for Cantor Fitzgerald near the top of the North World Trade Center Tower. Billy was a freshman at the University of Kentucky. His sister was a fifth grader in Connecticut.
Three years ago, Maureen rode the train in from Connecticut and we caught up in a New York Café. The next day Connie, the boys and I found Bill Meehan’s name cast in bronze at the 9/11 memorial, amid a steady flow of tears. Our thirteen year old wondered aloud why he wept for a man he never meet. We assured him that empathy flows from our common humanity rooted in the image of God within us. Just as Jesus wept over Jerusalem, the proper emotional response to evil, injustice and oppression are sympathetic tears, followed by just actions. On Palm Sunday, Jesus wept over the ancient city, “If you, even you, had only known what would bring you peace” (Luke 19:41-42). Jesus then rode into the city to preach, heal, be crucified, and rise triumphant over sin, evil, and death.
Martin Luther King wrote “I have seen too much hate to want to hate. I see what it does to people, how it contorts their faces. Hate is a burden. I have decided to stick to love” (adapted from A Christmas Sermon for Peace). Hate, revenge, and payback bubble up when evil strikes. Hate flew the planes into the WTC. Hate poisons the soul. Hate kills our common humanity. Hate dehumanizes its’ victims. Those breathing hate stop seeing others as fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, sons, and daughters. Hate only breeds hate. Hate cannot end hate.
Fifteen years after 9/11 my boys have only known the War On Terror. It is easy to grow weary, grow angry, become terrorized, or stop paying attention. Goodness and justice require hard work. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). When we linger in hostility, caricature, contempt, prejudice, intolerance, half-truth, malice, slander and hate; we succumb to evil. Fighting the good fight, requires acknowledging the deep loss and cost wrought by evil while seeking redemption, justice, goodwill, and peace for all people.
Sunday, we will gather to worship our Sovereign God, before whom every word and deed will be laid bare. (Matthew 12:36) Let us pause, remember, and pray. Let us confess any place we have let hate take hold. Let us arise as forgiven people and work for justice, peace and goodwill for all. Even as we pray “deliver us from evil” let us work to bring “God’s Kingdom on earth as in heaven.”
Grace and Love