From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Everyday Grace: A time to mourn, a time to pray

by Lori Fontana

(From the Oct. 25, 2001 edition of the Inland Register)

With the terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, our country has endured an appalling tragedy, one that will permanently change our national psyche. After viewing unbelievable television images over and over, the numbness of our shock has worn away, and now we begin to ask, “How do we respond to such horror?” “What should our country do?” “What do we tell our children?”

Quite normal human responses to such an attack are retaliation and revenge. It’s not exactly the time when we feel like turning the other cheek. Even we Christians may not want to ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” “They” hurt us; we want to hurt “them” back. Yet, if we profess to be followers of Jesus, we must look to him for guidance as to how we will answer the violence of Sept. 11, 2001.

Jesus himself went to his death, a terribly painful and ignoble one at that, rather than do violence to another. Most of us will not be called upon to give our very lives for what we believe, but all of us will experience many occasions of “dying to self” in order to live as Christians in today’s world.

Our responses as individual Americans must be formulated and tempered by lots of prayer. God can work with prayerful spirits; God can change hearts and implant wisdom. God does bring justice to a world fraught with inequality. But God needs us to be emissaries of his will. God needs us to bear to our hurting world hearts of love, spirits of peace, minds of wisdom, voices of justice.

Christian responses to this violence will vary, but certain principles form a solid basis for our actions and for guiding our children.

First, we prayerfully and lovingly listen. Listen to your own feelings. Are you angry, outraged, grieving, paralyzed with fear? What are your children feeling? What are their questions and fears? Just because we’re Christians doesn’t mean we won’t feel anger. Acknowledge those feelings.

Feelings expressed hold less power over us. When we hold our feelings up to the light by sharing them and praying through them, we can then choose to respond in a thoughtful way, not driven blindly by feelings.

Secondly, we spend time in prayer, alone and with our family and church community. Praying is something we all can do, old and young, healthy and ill, adult and child. Prayer is a constructive response to disaster. And in prayer, God can soften and instruct our hearts.

Immediately following the attacks, I found myself feeling disoriented and weepy as I watched the horrifying scenes. I felt aimless. In prayer, though, I found a personal peace as well as a sense of doing something positive.Communal prayer often produces clarity as others express their thoughts and hopes. In prayer, we can learn from one another and support one another.

Finally, we cling to the principle of the sacredness of all human life. This may be the most difficult challenge we face in this crisis. These were innocent people killed in the terrorist attacks; they were peacefully going about their daily routines. They were loved by spouses, parents, children, siblings, friends, and co-workers. They did not deserve to die.

But Jesus’ challenge to us is that no one, not one human being, deserves to die a violent death. Though we are all imperfect, every life, across every country, race, religion, is precious to God. Each of us, every human being, is created in the image and likeness of God.

How easily we forget this basic truth of our faith. At the least intrusion on our territory or our rights, we’re ready for a fight. Or if we choose to “suffer in silence,” we assume the high moral ground – “I’m more noble or righteous, a better person than she is.” Often we tend to lump people together as the “bad guys:” all teenagers, all Mexicans, all Muslims, anyone whose looks or speech is different from mine. “They” are the problem!

The truth is we are the problem. Humanity’s brokenness is the problem. Our world is not perfect because we are imperfect, every one of us. Thank God for grace, by which we can overcome those human tendencies which lead to hatred, suspicion, division and violence against one another. Let us all listen, pray, treasure each life as precious, and ardently seek for the grace to do good in the face of evil. In the end we must believe that, even in the midst of such tragedy and death, God’s grace is there to lead us forward. For I believe that it is only in a humble spirit of reconciliation, that we can find interior peace and bring a lasting peace to our heartbroken world.

(Lori Fontana works in evangelization ministry for the Diocese of Yakima.)

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