Photo: Chao Wang
9/11: Divine Mercy and Grieving
By Br. Leonard Konopka, MIC (Sep 11, 2006)
by Br. Leonard Konopka, MIC
September 11, 2001, will linger for many years in the hearts and minds of people everywhere, but especially in the people who lost loved ones in that catastrophe.
No one can completely fathom the depths of despair experienced by those who lost someone. We need to constantly pray for the souls of those who perished.
I recall hearing a story of how in Washington, D.C., at 5 a.m. on Sept. 12, a reporter drove to the scene of the Pentagon inferno in which the terrorist plane had crashed. He went to the grassy knoll that overlooked the building. In the distance, he saw a women with binoculars looking at the still-smoldering blaze. He approached her and inquired: "May I ask what you're doing here at this time of day?"
She replied: "I'm waiting for my husband."
She was waiting for the love of her life. We can only surmise her overwhelming anxiety that drew her like a magnet, to wait all night. However, her vigil was short lived. Her husband never returned. But she did not wait in vain. She knew the Lord was with her.
What allows us to live through the loss, when it hurts so much in knowing a loved one will never return? How much grief must be experienced before some peace comes into our souls? We are told that, to the degree our relationship was significant, to that degree the grief will continue. This grieving can prevail for months and years, and some carry it to their own graves.
There is no one right way to grieve. Everyone must choose to find their own path to be reconciled. We can only stand with them and pray for God to fill the furrow that was created in their hearts.
Working through life's disappointments, sorrows and regrets often involves a tremendous amount of anger and frustration before healing can displace the deep anguish and hurt that lies in the depth of our very being. Can anyone or anything ever replace the one we loved and lost? Each loss is unique, and nothing can take the place of the loved one, other than God Himself.
At some point in the grieving process, we are confronted with the notion that eventually and ultimately there comes the time to forgive. Many of us think that just because we cannot pardon means we have not forgiven. Eventually, we realize that we cannot pardon the offender, only God can do that. It's His prerogative.
However, it is precisely in the example of 9/11 that the concept of mercy can be understood. Mercy is the ability to forgive the unforgivable. When slowly surrendering our seeming rage, and coming to that right moment of readiness, we can pray for the light of the Holy Spirit to help us realize the degree that Jesus has forgiven us. If we can rise above the denial stage and be honest with ourselves and truthfully see how many times He continues to forgive us for things that are grievous, then there is that possibility we too can show mercy and forgive the unforgivable. This too can take time to accept. We need to pray for the grace to do that. We cannot will to do it, only His grace can allow us to surrender.
If we cannot fathom the degree of His forgiveness, then it will be almost impossible for us to show mercy to others. My world will remain in turmoil, whether within or without, until I can follow Christ's lead and allow Him to resolve our deepest pain by asking Him to show mercy to those who sin against us. Since we cannot show pardon, we ask Our Lord to do that because we may not be ready able or willing to do so ourselves.
Knowing how much mercy we have received can lead us inevitably to remain steadfast, resolute, patient, enduring, under any and every condition and circumstance that the Lord allows us to experience.
When we can finally accept and define mercy as "unmerited grace" or "unmerited forgiveness," we can try to extend that same response to others. We are most like Jesus when we do so.
Lord Jesus Christ, I need Your peace within my soul because of my loss. I ask forgiveness for the times I have offended you. Now I also ask your mercy upon those who sinned against me by taking away the one I loved. I know and believe You want me to forgive. To the degree I cannot do that, please be patient with me, until I can surrender myself completely to you. Amen.
Brother Leonard Konopka, MIC, is on the staff of the Marian Seminary in Washington, DC. He also provides spiritual direction, retreats, and seminars. Brother Leonard has a leaflet available that has a series of meditations on the five wounds of our Lord. The meditations are intended for use while praying the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy. Click here to order Contemplate My Wounds. He also has a CD available with the meditations on the five wounds, interspered with the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy. Click here to order A Musical Interlude.