Homily of Archbishop John Foley on 9/11 Anniversary

«Whether We Live or Die, We Are the Lord’s»

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ROME, SEPT. 11, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is the homily delivered by American Archbishop John Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, at the Church of Santa Susanna in Rome, on the fourth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

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My brothers and sisters in Christ:

First of all, I know that all of you join me in expressing a special welcome today to the new ambassador of the United States of America to Italy, Ronald Spogli, who honors us with his presence today, together with his wife and daughter. In the absence of Senate confirmation of the proposed new ambassador of the United States to the Holy See, we also welcome the newly arrived Chargé d’Affaires at the American Embassy to the Holy See, Mr. Christopher Sandrolini.

Welcome, Mr. Ambassador and Mr. Counselor, and we will also pray this morning for the fruitfulness of your diplomatic mission for our great country. God bless America!

9/11 — hearing those numbers still causes us pain. We can still see the planes, mobile incendiary bombs, flying into the World Trade Center towers; we can still see the bodies of many in the towers who hurled themselves into the void to flee incineration; we can still see those two great towers, symbols of the economic power of the United States, collapsing in on themselves like houses of cards.

9/11 — they are the numbers which have changed our lives, because trust and openness have vanished as travel has become a series of obstacles to be overcome — not an experience to be pleasantly anticipated.

9/11 — hearing those numbers makes us think of heroism. Those numbers had symbolized and still symbolize our last resort — the number Americans call in an emergency. Those numbers for us now symbolize heroic fire fighters and police men and women who sought to save lives and to bring order out of chaos. They are not the men and women who made six- and seven-figure salaries and who had perhaps not yet arrived in their luxurious offices in the World Trade Center; they are the men and women who perhaps cannot ever be paid enough for the risks they take, for the dedication they show, for the sacrifices they made that day and on many others.

Even everyday life has become increasingly unpredictable, as the train bombings in Madrid and the underground bombings in London have made clear.

Now, just two weeks ago, a natural disaster — Hurricane Katrina — wiped out much of the Gulf Coast of the United States. We do not know how many have died, but we do know that there are hundreds of thousands of refugees, persons displaced by one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to strike the United States.

Not only will we be praying today for all those victims, both living and dead, but your pastor, Father Greg Apparcel, has informed me that there will be a special collection at the post-Communion of today’s Mass, the proceeds of which will be sent to Catholic Charities USA for the relief of the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Now, I ask you to meditate on the words of the second reading of today’s Mass: «None of us lives for himself; none of us dies for himself. For if we live, we live for the Lord and, if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.»

No matter what tragedy may befall, we are the Lord’s. He is present to us at every moment of our lives. He it is who will receive us when we die. We are the Lord’s.

We have seen how a handful of terrorists have changed the course of history and have changed literally millions of lives; we have seen how one natural disaster has paralyzed an entire section of the mightiest nation on earth.

How many people put their trust in money and in possessions — and we see how soon it can all be lost! How many people put their trust in power — and we see how soon we find ourselves powerless in the hands of a few fanatics or in the face of a force of nature.

Yes, we are autonomous, but we are not self-sufficient. We are dependent every moment of our lives upon the Lord and it is he to whom we must be ready to render an account of our lives.

We are called upon to live our lives always in that delicate balance between personal responsibility and effort and the realization that we depend totally and utterly upon God, our creator and redeemer.

On this day, we pray that the hearts of those who wish us evil may be converted — and we hope to have the power and the will to forgive them.

On this day, we remember the survivors, those who still suffer the effects of 9/11 and other terrorist acts and those who are refugees from Katrina.

On this day, we remember the victims — the thousands who died in the attack on the twin towers and the Pentagon and the attempted attack on another target which finished in a plane crash in a field in Pennsylvania; we remember their victims of terrorism in other nations — and we remember the as yet unnumbered thousands who have perished in the terrible destruction along the Gulf Coast. May they rest in God’s peace!

On this day, we pray for ourselves, that we may have the strength to bear whatever may happen to us, remembering that we are God’s, and we pray that we may have the will and strength to help those who cry out to us in their need — not only for assistance, but for a sense of meaning and purpose.

«Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.»

This may sound like our limitation; it is in reality our strength.

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