We are gathered this morning to pray, to come into the presence of God almighty and merciful, to pray for our brothers and sisters who died in the tragic events of this week, in the USA. We are here with our own pains, with the pains of the American people and American Churches, with whom we are in a constant and fraternal relation in our quest of justice and peace in this land.
Brothers and sisters
We are gathered this morning to pray, to come into the presence of God almighty and merciful, to pray for our brothers and sisters who died in the tragic events of this week, in the USA. We are here with our own pains, with the pains of the American people and American Churches, with whom we are in a constant and fraternal relation in our quest of justice and peace in this land. To all of you, Americans here sharing in this prayer, we present our sincere condolences. With you, and with the people and the Church of America, we mourn the departed, we entrust them to the mercy of God. In the same time, we pray for the survivors, for the relatives and friends, and for the leaders of America, may God give them faith, hope and strength to go on building their land, with their faith in God and love for their brothers and sisters in America and in the world.
In the first reading of today, from the book of Exodus, we read the following versus: ” I shall make a great nation out of you” (Ex 32:10). For that, Moses had prayed and asked the intercession of the Fathers: “Remember Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”. The greatness of the nation, for the Jewish people as for all peoples of the earth, will depend from the presence of those forefathers and their followers, the prophets and the saints, who had listened to the word of God, who had made it known to the people, and who, through the spirit of God Almighty and merciful, had prepared the peoples of the earth to become great nations. This is to say that the greatness of every nation will always rely upon the word of God, and from the capacity of the nation, leaders and people, to listen to it and to be faithful to it. The nearer to God, to his greatness, the nearer to the true greatness in this world. Jesus had also said: “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect”. All progress and all greatness in this world can only be a sharing in the greatness and the perfection of God.
The question comes naturally to the mind: There are so many interpreters of the Word of God and they are often contradictory. Some find in the Word of God love and mercy, and some find death and hatred. Jesus had said: “Be perfect as Your Father in heaven is perfect”. So our guide is God himself. Those interpreters who are conform in their interpretation with the love and mercy of God, those we can trust and follow. Those who affirm attributes contrary to the very essence of God, as hatred and death and exclusion of other brothers and sisters, cannot be from God; they cannot work neither for God nor for the children of God; they cannot build the kingdom of God neither in this world nor in the world to come. Those who love, those for whom God is the source of their own love for others, these are the interpreters of the word of God.
This brings back the role of religion in our present world. It happened in history that religion has served to be a cause of wars. Today too, religion is manipulated and God is prayed to overcome the enemy. In our country here, religion on both sides is having a big role in the conflict and in the cycle of violence. Religion cannot be a cause of wars. God is not the God of hatred and death. God is the God of all his children, whatever be their faith or nationality, and it is the role of all leaders to come out of their conformism to the political system of which they are a part, even to overcome a dominating vision in the crowds, to become the prophets for the building of the future. It is a common responsibility of all religious leaders to free themselves, not to remain obedient parts of the political system, in order to be the voice of God, not of men, the God of mercy, righteousness and love for all.
World leaders, on their side, should make God more present in their own life and plans. They should know that progress of humankind cannot be done without God, without an education which allows the new generations to know God, as God of mercy, of righteousness and love. The religious vacuum in the present society should be filled with a true religious education, starting from the leaders to all the strata of the people in order to know God, and to know that he is the father of all. God cannot be a source of discrimination among his children. The present developed society should not leave God out of its plans: seeing God the human progress will follow more appropriate better ways, and God will not remain a weapon in the hands of the poor to take revenge of the strong.
There will be always and everywhere oppositions and differences among religions, and religious views or positions. The same among peoples and nations and persons. But no one, should remain enemy: neither seeing himself as enemy, nor seeing the other as enemy, to kill and to hate. Religion should educate all to see in the other a brother and sister to build together this world of God, as true children of God.
For that we pray, this morning, brothers and sisters, may God help us to find in our tragedies seeds of a new life, as was the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Cross led to the Resurrection because Jesus gave his life out of love for all, and because he forgave to those who were the cause of his death. Therefore, through love and forgiveness, death became the seeds of a new life. Amen.
+ Michel Sabbah
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem
Jerusalem 16 September 2001