Saturday, September 10, 2011

A cross was left standing (Sunday homily)

When we think about the anniversary we mark this weekend-- 
that it falls on a particular Sunday--
and then there are readings, which come up every three years… 
Were you struck by the so-called “coincidence” of these readings, on this weekend? 

It’s not coincidence. It’s Divine Providence. 

What did we hear? About anger and wrath, About the sinner who “hugs them tight”; 
And about vengeance. About the choice of forgiveness--or refusing mercy. 
And about God’s healing. 

A group of people we didn’t know about hugged tight their wrath, and they attacked us. 
Even though war and killing are as old as mankind, 
Still that day changed us; we’ll never forget. 

Our nation responded. 

We all support our President--then and now--
When he has to take action to defend us. 
And we have no words good enough for our fellow citizens, many in our families, 
who answer the call, with some paying the ultimate price, to keep us safe. 
Now--we have the right and the responsibility to defend ourselves. 
That is not in question. 
But let’s face it: we used what tools we have--we struck back, hard. 
How is this going to end? 

We all want to know God’s answer: why does evil happen? 
Well, we know why. Because human beings chose sin. 
It only takes one domino to fall--they all fall. 

There are two answers to evil in the world--
yes, even for God, there are only two responses: 
Coercion or conversion. God can force us, take away our freedom, and we’ll be good robots; 
Or we can change. 

And what our Lord was saying to Peter, what he says to us: 
We can hit back--or we can forgive; we can be reconciled. 

We can hit back; as a nation, we have the right. 
But if all we use is our might, until we kill everyone who hates us, the cycle won’t end. 

Reconciliation starts to look a little more practical. 

When World War II ended, we had to be reconciled to our enemies. 
Would we be better off if we hadn’t? 

Is forgiveness hard? Oh yes; some of you know that better than I do. 

What Peter couldn’t understand-- and wouldn’t, until after Good Friday--
was that the Cross wasn’t just a really bad thing that happened to Jesus. 
The Cross is every sin--in Peter’s case, every sin against him, 
and every one he was guilty of. 
But then start multiplying: 
From Adam who failed his wife, Eve, 
Cain, who killed his brother, 
Right down through the ages. 
All of it--the wars, the greed, the obscene cruelty, 
slavery, violence and indifference: 
That towering, festering pile of evil was dumped on Jesus, on the Cross! 

Jesus says, turn the other cheek? He turned his a billion times infinity. 
He tells us, forgive seventy times seventy? He forgive infinity times forever. 
What if he hadn’t? Where would any of us be? 
Is there anyone who can walk into heaven by right? 
Who doesn’t first have to stop at the Cross, to leave our sins? 
That’s the price. To be forgiven, forgive. 

In this time of war and terror, you and I as Christians have a role to play 
our government, our nation, can’t take. 
Our government is using the tools it has. 
Those protecting us are doing their best. 
But there’s something more. 

Someone has to say to those who hate us, who choose death, 
“In Jesus’ Name, we forgive! 
Bin Laden and others chose to die, so they could destroy others. 
Look at Jesus: here is your God! He chose to die, that he might save others. 
To save you, bin Laden; to save you, al Qaeda. Jesus died for you.” 

Remember that day? In the mangled steel of the twin towers, remember? 
There was a cross left standing. A coincidence? No. 
Amidst all the war and wrath, someone has to lift up the Cross to our world.

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