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Amid the smoke and rubble at Ground Zero, rescue workers came across a twisted steel cross that became a landmark of hope for firefighters, police officers and other emergency workers. As if in answer to the question burning in so many minds--Where was God on 9/11?--this cross reminded us again of Jesus' suffering, death and resurrection. The cross was God's answer to the world's sin and suffering; it remains the only answer.
The events of Good Friday are eternally true. If Jesus was on the cross once, then he is on the cross until the end of the world--suffering and dying with every person who suffers and dies. Likewise, if he descended into Hell, then he is always there to save every lost soul who turns to him. If he rose from the dead and went to Heaven bringing souls with him, then he is forever bringing souls to Heaven.
In that sense, September 11 is not only comparable to Good Friday, but even part of the same event. The suffering of every person who ever lived is part of Jesus' suffering. And the whole point of all this suffering is that Jesus also wants everyone to be part of his resurrection.
Few have really grasped the enormity of this tragedy and the impact it will have on history. The demonic forces unleashed on that day make it a date that will not be forgotten as long as our world stands. On September 11, like 2000 years ago, the devil incited men to cry out, “Crucify him!” Through the crucifixion of Jesus the powers of darkness appeared to have achieved their aim. But God had something else in mind. On the third day Jesus overthrew Satan and routed the enemy.
Ground Zero is another manifestation of the cross of Jesus, which symbolizes the worst thing that was ever done, but also the best thing that has ever happened--Christ's victory over death and the promise of eternal life. September 11 should remind us of the great earthquake that preceded Easter morning. Through the resurrection on Easter Sunday, in one lightning stroke, a new history started. Night turned to light and heaven drew near to earth. Humankind once more came within reach of God. Life came forth from death and men realized that nothing is more beautiful and glorious than that.
The terrorists' aim was to instill fear in people's hearts. Fear paralyzes people and separates them from one another, and most of all it separates them from God. After he rose from the dead, Jesus said to his disciples, “Peace be with you.” The disciples had been discussing everything that had occurred. Some had believed while others had doubted, which must have resulted in a lot of tension and fear. Jesus came to them with the simple words, “Peace be with you.” This peace is something we all can hold on to, despite all our human concerns. In the midst of fear and discord we should proclaim the peace of Jesus, which is the very best thing one can possess.
This year, during the weeks before Easter, the pain and anguish that Jesus suffered for everyone, for the whole human race, should affect each of us a lot more and change our lives. Each Easter should remind us that it is the task of the Church to put the crucified Christ in the center, for that is the only place where everyone can find purity and freedom from everything that defiles our souls, such as lying, murder, hatred and envy. At Pentecost Peter told the people, “Turn away from this crooked generation and be saved.” How much more true are these words today?
We have a wonderful promise for the whole world: that God will never forget us. Certainly, we will have to go through judgment, as we did on September 11, but God will not forget us. When we listen with open hearts, the Easter message becomes even stronger after such a catastrophe. There is a redemptive power that comes from the cross that carries into the past, the present and the future. This power of redemption becomes still stronger when we remember that even though at the cross it seemed as if Jesus had lost the battle, it only seemed that way.
In the Twin Towers many met their end much faster then they would ever have dreamt possible. It must have brought great fear into their hearts in the last moments. Thankfully millions of prayers for these souls went up to God. A prayer for anyone, even someone we don't know, will reach God. Due to the lightning speed at which so many unsuspecting people were killed, many family members agonize over questions such as: Will my loved one who died be saved? Where is she now? Is he with Jesus? Remember that Jesus was crucified between two criminals. He promised one of them, “You will be with me today in Paradise.” Anyone can find comfort in these words.
When Jesus was nailed to the cross, he was stripped of everything. Yet in his agony he thought only of others. He gave his mother to his beloved disciple John saying, “Behold your son,” and to John, “Behold your mother.” To the Roman soldiers and to the angry crowd his prayer was, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do.” His simple message to us was that we should take care of one another, and that in the end it is people, not money and materialism, that are our greatest treasure.
Our country was completely unprepared for September 11. Our priorities were upside down. We placed value on money, materialism, sex and other idols, forgetting that our time in this world is so short. This tragedy stripped us of these idols, things that at the hour of sickness and death are meaningless anyway. These were replaced with a much greater gift--a bond of love, solidarity and brotherhood. People learned that they need one another, and that death, pain and suffering can bring forth redemption, purpose and new life. Easter and the resurrection made sense at Ground Zero. God was there and hearts were touched.
Photo credit: Anne Bybee