Bishop Robert J. Baker’s homily at the Cathedral Mass commemorating the Sept. 11 tragedies
By BISHOP ROBERT J. BAKER
Today in a memorial service at ground zero in New York City, a prayer was offered by a Catholic chaplain for those who died at the site and those still missing from the terrible tragedy one month ago. Smoke still rises from the burning pile of debris. The temperature reaches 180 degrees. An acrid smell continues to emanate from the site.
One month ago, a devastating blow against our country took place that radically and drastically altered our lives. As Americans, we no longer go about our lives with a business-as-usual attitude.
There is a gripping fear among us that what happened to the 343 firemen and over 5,000 dead and missing people could happen to any one of us. But in the aftermath of the tragedy, we are witnessing a new resolve that emerged — a new resolve of the American people.
Mayor Guiliani spoke about this new resolve when he talked about a “stronger spirit,” a “more unified world.” He said that New Yorkers are “much stronger, much more unified,” much more committed to values people hold dear.
He said that the terrorists attempted to break our spirit but they have actually emboldened that spirit.
One family member of a firefighter who died spoke of a united family group (World Trade Center) that has emerged to reach out to grieving families. The group is aimed at providing a sense of power and recovery and remembrance. He pointed out that the American spirit is “unbreakable.”
Last evening I had the privilege of joining more than 20 young people who were confirmed at Holy Family Parish in Hilton Head, and their family members and friends who were present for the ceremony.
In that confirmation service, we reflected not only on the seven spiritual gifts the Holy Spirit brings to us — wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord — but also the fruits of the Holy Spirit that let us know the Spirit is present.
St. Paul enumerates some of them in his letter to the Galatians — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self-control. The presence of these virtues in our lives is evidence of the Spirit’s presence in our lives. St. Paul also suggests that what our human nature wants can often be opposed to what the Spirit wants.
These two can be enemies. And Paul says the evil direction shows itself when people become enemies and they fight, when they are jealous, angry, and ambitious, when they separate into parties and groups. St. Paul says those who do these things will not possess the Kingdom of God.
The people who chose the route of terrorism chose the route of broken human nature, of raw human evil. They set up and encouraged further conflict between the spirit of good and the spirit of evil. They fostered a deeper gulf between the two.
It is up to the people like those confirmed last evening and those families affected by the devastation in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., to rekindle the spirit of good that St. Paul talks about — peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self-control. It is up to us, all of us, to rebuild and rekindle that Spirit’s activity within us.
The forces for good, these tools of the Holy Spirit, will only win out if they find their presence in our lives here and now — today.
There is a war going on in our world. It is a spiritual combat between the spirit of good — the Spirit of God, and the spirit of evil — the Evil Spirit, Satan.
Let us throw our lot in with the Holy Spirit and allow his force for good to prevail by being his ambassadors for good — like those positive-minded people in New York who have allowed the Holy Spirit to transform the devastation and destruction of the evil spirit into an opportunity for emboldening the human spirit.
Doing anything less on our part would not be a fitting tribute to the 343 firefighters and over 5,000 people who died in the terrorist attacks.
Doing anything less would not be a tribute to the Holy Spirit dwelling in our lives through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and from today’s holy Mass, in the great sacrament of the Holy Spirit, the holy Eucharist.
During the Mass, Bishop Baker thanked the Catholic community of the Diocese of Charleston for the gift of over $200,000 to victims in dioceses where the tragedies took place.