By Matthew Janeczko, OFM Cap.
One of the regular attendees at the 6:45 mass mentioned to me yesterday that she didn’t envy me. “Why?” I asked. “Because you need to preach tomorrow. It’s 9/11.” And yet, there is no place I think I could be otherwise then at the altar, at the ambo, immersed in God’s Word, sharing God’s Table with the always faithful People of God.
The only way the tragedies of our world can possibly be endured (for they will never make sense: of this I am certain) is precisely because we gather around the Word and Sacrament each day in defiance of the powers and principalities that wish God didn’t care about the world, about the flesh.
All of the horrific instances in our world, from those of the largest scale, wretched men turning transportation into flying weapons of terror, to those experienced every day, the unwanted child, the abused mother, the jobless and despondent father (and every combination therein), do not receive their meaning from the Cross. Rather, our response to them – all of these damnable marks of a broken world – finds its origin in the Christ and His Cross. For within our worship of the Crucified God, we find our only source of strength, our sole means of our endurance, and the single most illogical reason for our continued hope:
It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? (Romans 8:34)
And so, idiosyncratically, narrowly, what in the word does this mean for me, a priest?
I read something that Jorge Mario Bergoglio wrote last night and it perhaps gave me the answer to this question:
I don’t think the hands of a priest should simply go through the routine gestures when baptizing; rather, they should tremble with emotion because at that moment he is performing decisive gestures that become a foundation.*
The job of the priest, it seems to me, is to tremble with emotion when with the people: whether it be in the sacraments, in a simple conversation, in counseling the despondent – anything at all. Priests must continue to tremble because they find themselves situated within the greatest web of grace: a conduit (unworthy as they are) between the Crucified God and the Crucified People.
On this day, this anniversary that I wish didn’t happen, this remembrance that is marks the beginning of a state of war that is, quite plainly, the only life my high school students have known, I remember that I’m a conduit of the grace of God. I think of men I didn’t know, but wish I knew, like Father Mychal Judge, OFM, the priest they call the Saint of 9/11 (and a saint before that even) precisely because he himself knew the Crucified God so well and couldn’t stop himself from being Crucified with his firefighters, with his parishioners, with women and men who believed themselves forgotten by the Church, and who died, not raised up, but buried.
And yet then, as now, from being buried beneath the rubble, he is raised upon the Cross, still crucified, but raised no more to die: a servant who lived with his people and died with them.
Mychal Judge, pray for us. Pray for me.
* Open Mind, Faithful Heart, “Joy and Perseverance, 20-1.