Redemptorists of Australia and New Zealand

Australia, New Zealand and Samoa

Province of Oceania

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Homily for 9/11

Homily: Inter-Faith Memorial Service for ‘September 11’

By Edmond Nixon, C.Ss.R.

This service was organised by the Australian and New Zealand Consulates General, New York, and held at Epiphany Catholic Church, New York, September 28, 2001. The service was led by leaders from the Buddhist, Christian (Anglican and Catholic), Jewish, Hindu and Muslim faiths. It included orations from Australian, New Zealand and United States government leaders.

Dear Friends,

If one grew up on the Canterbury Plains under the eye of the Southern Alps, or by the rolling green hills of the North Island, and knew its bays and primal energies, I’m sure in some quiet place of the heart, there would be a likely hope that one’s final resting place would be under the soft light of the Long White Cloud.

Peace Garden 9/11 memorial, Epiphany church

Or, if one grew up across the Tasman on the sunburnt plains of Terra Australis, in the land of the Dreamtime, one would deem likely that its red earth would have been home for time and eternity, ’neath the currawong’s song and in the scent of the wattle.

Yet what gathers us here this morning, dear friends, is that this did not happen.

Rather, the family members and friends, colleagues and associates we have lost found their final resting place under Northern skies in the morning dew of a Pennsylvania field, or across from a green Arlington hillside, or on the tip of this tiny island-of-many-hills on which we gather, Manhattan.

Horror visited this isle on September 11.  Horror that morning visited our world.  By horror we have been left numb. In it we know fear. And from it we are left grieving.

Lives were wasted. Lives of dear ones. Faces that understood us. Arms that held us. Lives we hoped for.

How futile! How senseless! How maddening!

But it has happened before.  Lives wasted and lives thrown away in futile violence - on the beaches of Gallipoli, on the bare hills of Anzac Cove. Yet, over the nearly hundred years since then, our two nations have come to know a dignity which has meant in the end that not one ANZAC death was futile.

In the end, too, the lives of those who died on September 11th need not be wasted. Their deaths shall not be futile if our response to their living and their dying is to live and work for peace. A peace the world cannot give.

Peace in the deep places of the heart. Peace with those immediate to us. Peace among all of good will.  Peace among the nations. A peaceful earth.

This memorial is but a harbinger of the only memorial worthy of our missing ones - commitment to a justice between nations and peoples that alone can bring peace. Blessed are the peacemakers!

We are here today as believers, for we do believe in humanity - its dignity, its glory and its vulnerability. Worldwide ancient faith traditions pick up on the longing of the human heart - a fact borne out in this service - and these faith traditions say to us: Each of you is a person.  You live among persons both human and divine.

Each of these great faiths says the same two things to us, and they put them again to us this morning: Know the ineffability within you and about you; be compassionate to every sister and brother.

Today we are enfolded by a boundless and silent Tenderness, an Everlasting Tenderness we sometimes call God.

This tenderness has been en-fleshed by the messages of hundreds of children from all over New Zealand.  Their thoughts and their solicitous expression of them in art and word are displayed in the church foyer.  With only 36 hours notice of this service, their touching messages arrived by courier an hour before we began.

And, also, just an hour ago, there arrived from Australia the tender scents that welcomed you into this church, the sheafs of wild-flowers before the altar.  I invite all of you who have lost a partner, a mate, a friend or a colleague to take a wild flower or a sprig of bush as you may need and may want, for in them home has come to New York.

We have lost so much in these days - all of us.  But to you who have lost dear ones, please accept the heartfelt condolences of all of us gathered here this morning, and reaching across the miles, the love of everyone at home.

For those so untimely taken from us, people of many nations, not least these United States, we pray: Eternal rest grant unto them, O God.  Let perpetual light shine upon them.  May they rest in peace. Amen.