Fear grips the heart. My personal experience has confirmed that fear—terror—is swift to grab a hold. It thrives in darkness and secrecy, multiplying confusion, nursing anger.
Fear is sweeping our country and many others, following recent attacks by domestic and international terrorists. More than ever, I find myself recalling the Day America Changed, September 11, 2001. More than ever, I marvel at my response.
I was an eighth-grade girl in computer class. Our teacher turned on the TV, and we watched. My own uncle worked at one of the sites that was hit. We were stunned.
During lunch, a friend and I sat on a bench in the school courtyard. “Do you think it’s the end of the world?” she asked.
I looked up at the sky, almost as if looking for heavenly signs. “I don’t know,” I quietly replied.
We decided to pray. And that’s what we did—two middle schoolers on a bench in a San Antonio public school. Two children, responding to frightful events.
Isn’t it amazing? If my adult self were to guess how a child might respond to such a Day, I would have imagined a child stricken with fear. Yet, my own child-self was not distracted by fear.
Like any adult, we children certainly wondered what would happen next. We weren’t completely lacking in anxiety. (My uncle made it alive.) But we were not buzzing with fear. We decided to take our concerns to Our Father.
These days, adults around the world are wondering, “How should we respond to terrorists?” As Catholics, we are wondering all the more, “How does my faith call me to respond?”
When Jesus revealed to his disciples that he would die (cf. Luke 9), Scripture tells us that “they did not understand” and “were afraid”. They proceeded to argue about which of them was the greatest.
I can’t help but wonder if the disciples began to argue precisely out of that confusion and fear: How could the Master be put to death? What will happen next? Whom will we follow? Which of us is fit to lead?
Suddenly, finger pointing and side-taking begin. From confusion and fear arise arguments and chaos.
Jesus responds to this mess by placing a child in front of them. In Matthew’s gospel, he tells them, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
When the disciples encounter Terror itself in the arrest, torture and crucifixion that Jesus had foretold, only the youngest of them all, John, remained at the cross. I can’t help but wonder if this was the reason that only John died of natural causes. As martyrs, the other apostles had to once again look fear in the eyes and instead respond with childlike trust in their Father.
Turn on the news, pick up a newspaper, or read a Facebook timeline; you’ll see that, in the face of terrorism, we’re acting like the disciples. We want immediate answers. We want to live by the sword. We’re pointing fingers and taking sides. But how many of us are listening to the Master?
How many of us are actually approaching our Father with childlike trust, rather than just talking about how important God is to us? How many of us are sincerely praying for his Love to conquer? Forgiving those who wrong us? Welcoming the least among us?
When Blessed Miguel Pro looked his executioners in the eye, he said, “May God have mercy on you. May God bless you. […] With all my heart I forgive my enemies.” Then, raising his arms in cruciform, he shouted for the victory of the God who appeared weak as He conquered evil with love and mercy: “¡Viva Cristo Rey!”