September 11, 2001 is a date that will be forever emblazoned in our minds. It is a day that changed not only the lives of Americans but also the lives of all citizens of the world. For me, this day brings bittersweet memories. I was on a study break in Rome when the terrible events happened. I was living at the North American College located just outside Vatican City. I learned about the attacks from people on the streets. I stopped at a café on the street where many people were crowding the doorway. I’ll never forget peeking through the crowd to the catch my first look at the images being shown on the television. The devastation and evil I saw at that moment continues to leave me with a sickening feeling and brings the bitter memory of that day.
Today, sixteen years later, we unfortunately live in a world where violence and terrorism are part of our daily lives. Add to that the horrors of Hurricane Harvey and other natural disasters, and one is tempted to begin to lose hope. Yet, St. Paul reminds us in today’s Reading from the Letter to the Romans that both in good times and in difficult times we should love one another as Christ loves us. “Love”, St. Paul writes, “is the fulfillment of the Law of God.” At times when we feel overwhelmed by the violence and destruction that takes place all around us we are challenged to have hope in the Lord’s presence in our lives, hope in His promise to never leave us alone. We also get a sense of hope in the way that many good people have responded to the cries of those in need. This brings the sweet memory of that terrible day in 2001. Once again, just as in the days following September 11th, it is so comforting and heartwarming to witness the generosity and concern extended by so many people to our fellow citizens who are suffering from the hurricane’s destruction.
Like it or not, we encounter difficult times during the course of our lives. We must not lose hope! Rather, we should be inspired and strengthened by the presence of Jesus Christ in our lives and in doing so become a source of hope for those around us.
God bless you always!
Father Jim Volkert