United Against… Or… With Our Enemies?

by | Sep 16, 2022 | Formation, Reflections

On 9/11 we immediately think of the pain and suffering, the injustice of the attacks. This leads to a defensive stance united against our enemies.

The emotions run deep. We then ask “Do you remember the moment when you heard about 9/11?”

But how many think of 9/14?

Even fewer can make any connection between 9/11/ and 9/14.

In this Vincentian Mindwalk written on a 9/11 anniversary, I explore a connection between 9/11 as uniting us against our enemies and 9/14 which challenges us to love our enemies.

Connecting 9/11 and 9/14

A clue… 9/14 is the annual liturgical memorial “The Exaltation of the Holy Cross.” This feast is a curious amalgam if events connected with a rediscovery of the actual Cross on which Christ was crucified.

 The violence of Cain and Abel

There is a straight line from Cain and Abel to the horrors of 9/11 and beyond!

Since the time of Cain and Abel we have been perpetuating violence.

In ancient times it was enshrined in “an eye for and eye.” If you cause pain, I will cause you pain. A straight-forward transaction!

We have a history hanging on the grudge for a lifetime or for centuries in the hearts of a people! With that comes a desire for vengeance! That’s the way we tend to operate.

So, it is ingrained in us to think of a God who demands justice when offended.

Jesus shows us another way

But that is not the way God operates!

Even with the help of prophets we could not wrap our minds around God’s unconditional forgiving love. It is so different from our reaction.

So, in the fullness of time God sent his Word in human form to show us how to break the cycle of violence.

God has been trying to tell us for millennia!

“There is nothing you can do, no amount of evil that you can do to each other, that will be able to stop my loving you, nothing you can do to separate yourselves from me.”

On his cross of suffering, Jesus showed us the most radical and unbreakable unitive force of unmerited forgiveness of pain.

Faced with horrendous violence Jesus trusted, kept loving his persecutors … and rose to the fullness of life.

Jesus, like us in all things but sin, showed us what divine love looks like.

Jesus dies “for” us not in the sense of “a substitute for us” but “in solidarity with” the suffering of all humanity since the beginning of time! This is a transformation of our very soul and the trajectory of history.

The challenge of the cross

We miss the point if we merely “thank” Jesus for dying for us. We are called to honestly imitate him.

The sign of the cross we make reminds us that we are called to love our enemies… just as we, ungrateful children of God and even worse, enemies of God, continue to be loved by God.

Isn’t that the point of the story of the servant who was forgiven much and would not forgive someone who owed him much less?

The scandal of the cross, and it is a scandal, is that Jesus went to his death loving even his enemies. “Forgive them”… just as God continues to love every human being no matter how vile.

Becoming aware of being sons and daughters, brothers and sisters in all circumstances calls us to transformation.

9/14 leads back to understand… and living … our union as sisters and brothers.

Do we have the faith, the hope, to love our sisters and brothers especially when they inflict pain great or small?

Richard Rohr frequently explores the mystery of the cross. He was recently privileged to meet with Pope Francis who commended his work.

Originally posted on Vincentian Mindwalk