A Word in Season
9/11 and the Ever-Present Christ
Jesus knows every victim, survivor, and onlooker even if they cannot fathom God's nearness to them amidst carnage.
How does one go on? How does one begin to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of tragedy?
One piece at a time.
I found it comforting that, in the careful sifting of the fresh rubble of the World Trade Center twin towers, crews performing search and recovery duties unearthed an iron cross. Made of fused I-beams from WTC Tower One, it was erected at Ground Zero as a symbol of hope to the onlookers on site and around the world. The blessing of the cross makes it something more than a symbol. It becomes a sacramental. A sacramental points to something much larger than itself. It reminds us of the sacred in our ordinary lives.
On a day like 9/11, the cross should remind us of the presence of Jesus in the midst of all suffering. Thanks to Christ's victory on Calvary's Cross, it bears particular witness to Christ's presence that day—inside the doomed, scorched wreckage. For, God is everywhere, and Christ is especially present to every person at the moment of death.
Am I a God at hand, says the LORD, and not a God afar off? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? says the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? (Jer. 23:23-24)
Christ, the crucified-now-Risen Lord, was found in the infernos that day. Christ was in the fiery heat, and the blackness of the smoke. His saving power alone could operate amid the heinous, diabolical treachery that took those lives that day.
On 9/11 Jesus stood as the threshold through death to eternity for every departed soul in Manhattan, Washington D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Christ the Victim met every victim, those who suffered immediate death, and those who died lingering deaths from their wounds.
Who knows what instantaneous conversions may have taken place in those final moments of life for the victims of 9/11?
But Jesus has a way of being present to those who suffer both in the short as victims and long term as survivors and onlookers.
Down through the centuries and generations it has been seen that in suffering there is concealed a particular power that draws a person interiorly close to Christ, a special grace . . .
Suffering is, in itself, an experience of evil. But Christ has made suffering the firmest basis of the definitive good, namely the good of eternal salvation. By his suffering on the Cross, Christ reached the very roots of evil, of sin and death. He conquered the author of evil, Satan . . .
For suffering cannot be transformed and changed by a grace from outside, but from within. And Christ through his own salvific suffering is very much present in every human suffering, and can act from within that suffering by the powers of his Spirit of truth, his consoling Spirit. (John Paul II, Apostolic Letter, Salvifici Doloris, 1984, par. 26)
Pat Gohn is a Catholic writer, speaker, and the host of the Among Women Podcast and blog. Her book Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood is published by Ave Maria Press. Subscribe to “A Word in Season” via email or RSS.