I had another post all set to go for today, then I looked at the calendar and realized I had forgotten. Today is September 11th. On this day, eleven years ago, the country watched in horror as the Pentagon caught flame and the World Trade Center was reduced to a pile of rubble. The media carried story after story about the attacks for weeks prior to the first anniversary of 9/11. The second and third anniversaries were marked with similar coverage, but more than a decade later, our memories are fading. We’ve caught our breath. Our national grief isn’t as raw. There are no more cries for vengeance, only politicians promising peace. It’s strange for me to think that the teenagers walking the street outside my window have no recollection of where they were or what they were doing on 9/11. I wonder what my husband and I will tell our son when he is old enough to understand.
We will tell him because it is important to remember, but telling the story isn’t enough. Have you ever watched an elderly war vet share his account of Pearl Harbor with a grandchild? How about a vivid retelling of the day John F. Kennedy got shot? Folks of my parents’ age remember every detail. Even the most gifted storyteller will get only a blank stare from the younger generation because youth have no visceral connection to a past they didn’t live.
The Church has a different way of remembering. The Liturgy of the Word tells the story of creation, sin, grace and redemption. But in the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the whole of salvation history is immediately made present in the person of Jesus Christ. God in His wisdom and mercy knows that it is not enough for us just to hear His Word. We need to remember with our bodies, not just our minds. We need to touch our Maker and taste His goodness to believe. So the Word became flesh for our sake, hung on a cross for our sake and remains in our midst so that we will never forget. Our remembrance of Him is more than a memory – it is our reality:
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.
A sacramental memory makes the past as real as the present, and the future transparently predictable. Remembering horrific events like 9/11 in the context of the Paschal mystery changes everything. Though we are tempted to cry for blood to avenge the lives of the thousands who died, the blood of Christ cries for mercy. While we weep for those who were lost, the Presence of Christ assures us that those who fall asleep in him are in the arms of God.
When memories bring us perilously close to despair, the remembrance of Christ’s passion and resurrection convicts us of the truth — though nation fight against nation, brother against brother until the end of time, the war is already won. The future holds no fear for us, nor should the memory of the past cause us to lose hope.
Christ meets us in the Eucharist lest we forget. Our God is stronger than any earthly power or dominion. Our God is the healer of every broken heart. He wipes the tears from our eyes and binds our broken hearts. Our God is victor. Not even the gates of hell can prevail against the power of His love.
Let us pray.
Eternal rest, grant unto them O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.