Since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, people throughout the world have felt a profound personal vulnerability and a new fear for the future.
We cannot explain the madness that took place that Tuesday. What we saw was the face of evil. And evil cannot logically be explained because evil is nothing. To confront nothingness is to come face-to-face with unspeakable horror.
On that fateful day five years ago, many people throughout the world asked if Satan, evil and death had won. And with each subsequent act of global terror over the past five years, we continue to ask that question.
One serious way that we in the West can commemorate the 9/11 attacks is to examine our own values. We must ask some very hard questions of ourselves, of our society and our culture.
What is the identity of so-called Western civilization? What are its principal values? What is Christianity's role in this culture? What is the role of religion in society? What is the relation today between Islam and Christianity? How can the false stereotypes of the so-called Christian civilization of the West and the links between Islam and terrorism be surmounted?
Many of the so-called values of Western civilization are anti-values that are no way Christian. On the first anniversary of 9/11, Pope John Paul II said:
Respect for life
"One year after September 11, 2001, we repeat that no situation of injustice, no feeling of frustration, no philosophy or religion can justify such an aberration. Every person has the right to respect for life itself and dignity which are inviolable goods. God says it, international law sanctions it, the human conscience proclaims it, civil co-existence requires it."
His words give us hope in the midst of the despair:
"May the memory of the tragic events in human history not obscure confidence in the infinite mercy and fidelity of God. His unchanging will of love and peace, manifested in Christ who died and rose from the dead, is the foundation of secure hope for all human beings and for all peoples."
Three days after Sept. 11 is Sept.14, the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. For Christians, this is the only way to try to find our way through the destruction and despair of the heinous violence now associated with Sept. 11. We follow the crucified Christ as people of hope, as a people seeking goodness. The cross teaches us that what could have remained violent, hideous and beyond remembrance is transformed into beauty, hope and a continuous call to heroic goodness.
From the Ground Zero wreckage, two girders from the World Trade Center that form the shape of a cross have been preserved, to be used in a future memorial at the site. There could not be a more powerful or provocative memorial to Sept. 11, 2001.