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Eleven Years After September 11: America Reflects on Who We Are
By Deacon Keith Fournier
September 11th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
September 11, 2001 changed the United States of America. Every anniversary since that fateful day has become an existential moment, an invitation to reflect on we are and who we will become. The actions of those evil men and the heroic response of those ground zero heroes call us to this reflection. I vividly remember the events of that fateful day. I remember where I was - and the immediate way in which I responded. I know the same is true of my readers. Eleven years later the very memory of the day evokes a deep seated response within me - a love for this Nation accompanied by a deep concern over her future.
NEW YORK, NY (Catholic Online) - September 11, 2001 changed the United States of America. Every anniversary since that fateful day has become an existential moment, an invitation to reflect on we are and who will become. The actions of those evil men and the heroic response of those ground zero heroes call us to this reflection.
I vividly remember the events of that fateful day. I remember where I was - and the immediate way in which I responded. I know the same is true of my readers. Eleven years later the very memory of the day evokes a deep seated response within me - a love for this Nation accompanied by a deep concern over her future.
On this eleventh anniversary we should remember and honor the memory of the 3000 innocent people whose lives were violently taken by evil men who claimed their "god" told them to kill the innocent. Those evil men crashed two planes into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, another into the Pentagon and then tried to crash the fourth in the U.S. Capitol, with the intention of killing as many innocent people as possible.
We were inspired by the courageous response of our fellow countrymen and women. Every year since September 11, 2001, we are reminded once again of who we can be as a good and free people. The heroes of Ground Zero were lights in an age of hungry darkness. That darkness still threatens.
In several of my recent articles I have expressed my opinion that this is the most important election in my lifetime. That is because I believe that what is at stake this November is the very idea of freedom which lies at the foundation of the American experiment.
There is no word which echoes more passionately within the heart than freedom. No word that evokes a deeper response. This Nation was founded by men and women who experienced threats to freedom's promise and responded to them with heroism. It has beckoned from its birth to all who hear freedom's invitation, to come and see.
These compelling words written by Emma Lazarus are engraved on the pedestal of the Lady Liberty in New York's Ellis Island: "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed, I lift my lamp beside the golden door."
Freedom's lamp still shines beside that golden door. However, that light is being diminished by counterfeit notions of freedom which fail to recognize its source, comprehend its promise, accept its obligations or believe in its potential to build a better future.
Blessed John Paul II was one of the architects of the freedom undertaking which brought down the Berlin Wall at the end of the last century. He once wrote "Human freedom belongs to us as creatures; it is a freedom which is given as a gift, one to be received like a seed and to be cultivated responsibly. It is an essential part of that creaturely image which is the basis of the dignity of the person."
The yearning for freedom is present in all men and women. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians Christians, "For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery." (Gal. 5:1) The Lord Jesus Christ called us along the path to freedom with this promise, "If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31, 32)
There is a struggle being waged over the meaning of freedom in this hour. It is a contest with extraordinary implications. Almost every contemporary concern that we face can be positioned within this struggle. As Christians, we know that freedom has a specific meaning. Viewing it within that context is the only way we can obtain the desired result of happiness, social harmony and human flourishing.
How one defines human freedom will influence the way that he or she views almost everything. Freedom has consequences. The capacity to make choices is what makes us human persons. What we choose either humanizes us further or leads us, ultimately, into slavery.
The capacity to choose reflects the "Imago Dei", the Image of God, within every human person. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council in the Catholic Church wrote in their document on the Mission of the Church in the Modern World, "Authentic freedom is an outstanding manifestation of the divine image within man." (GS # 17)
Pope Benedict XVI warned us that a "dictatorship of relativism" has been unleashed in this secularist age. The antidote is the message which the Church proclaims, that freedom must be exercised in relationship to truth or it is illusory and will lead to anarchy.
In 2005, Pope Benedict told an assembly of families: "Today's various forms of dissolution of marriage, free unions, trial marriages as well as the pseudo-matrimonies between people of the same sex are expressions of anarchic freedom which falsely tries to pass itself off as the true liberation of man,"
This "anarchic freedom" is what Blessed John Paul referred to as a "counterfeit" notion of freedom. It leads to something he warned of in his encyclical letter "The Gospel of Life" as the "death of true freedom". This anarchic counterfeit masquerading as freedom permeates the West.
Exposing such erroneous interpretations of freedom - and then proclaiming the path to true freedom - is our task as Christians living in an age which cries out for true freedom. In one of his seminal works entitled "Introduction to Christianity" Pope Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote: "one could very well describe Christianity as a philosophy of freedom."
Philosophy deals with the existential questions. The men and women of this age are asking the fundamental questions about the meaning of life which men and women of every age have asked. They hunger for truth and they yearn to be truly free. They will never be satisfied without God, who is the source, author and way to freedom because he is also the source of all that is true and good.
The contemporary age is intoxicated on the wine of a false notion of freedom as a raw power over others who are weaker. An example the illusory claim of a "right" to do whatever one wills, including taking the lives of our first neighbors in the womb.
On May 8, 2005 Pope Benedict opined concerning legal abortion and creeping euthanasia: "The freedom to kill is not true freedom, but a tyranny that reduces the human being to slavery." The new slavery of this age is unleashed as human persons are now routinely treated as property to be used and disposed of at will.
By calling what is always wrong a "right", contemporary men and women are losing freedom and being bound by the chains of their own self delusion, materialism and nihilism; imprisoned by the lie of what Pope Benedict called "anarchic freedom."
To an age deceived by false concepts of freedom the Church proclaims the unchangeable truth that some "choices" are always and everywhere wrong - choosing them does not make one free, rather it erodes authentic human freedom and leads to slavery and tyranny.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church addresses the wrong exercises of human freedom and reminds us of the implications of our use of our power to choose when it affirms: "Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself." (CCC, 1861.)
Freedom is not about the fact that we can choose what we "want" but about how and what we choose. Authentic Human Freedom will never be found in decisions that are made against God, against the truth and against the Natural Law.
On the eleventh anniversary of September 11th America should reflect on who are and act carefully as we choose who we will become.
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