As I stayed in the Catholic Worker House in the lower eastside Manhattan, I often visited the ground zero. Always the most significant image on the site to me was the steel beam cross that stood up on the ruin. It shouted out one of our voices, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken us?” like Jesus on the cross who suffers violence and dies a godforsaken death. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” There is a real sense in which the cross reveals a crucified God. If I borrow the theologian Moltmann’s reflection, while His only Son is dying on the cross, God the Father suffers too, but not in the same way. The Father suffers the loss of His Son, experiencing infinite grief. There is total separation between them; they are lost to each other. At the same time, however, they have never been so close. They are united in a deep community of will, each willing to do this for love of the world. As a result, the Holy Spirit who is love, the Spirit of their mutual love, flows out into the broken, sinful world. Their Spirit justifies the godless, rescues the abandoned, befriends the lonely, fills the forsaken with love, brings the dead alive, and guarantees that no one will ever again die godforsaken because Christ is already there in the depths of abandonment. So the cross not only plunges God deep into the suffering of the world. It also opens a reverse pathway on which suffering travels back into God, there to be redeemed.
I don’t want to give you a wrong impression, however, that I understand the mystery of the suffering and the cross. There is no positive meaning in unjust radical suffering that destroys persons. We must take the full measure of its negativity, refuse to ignore or spiritualize or glorify it. Then this affliction becomes a live question that must be addressed to God. In prayer we cry out, protest, lament, shout indignation, say this should not be. In its own way this prayer is a suffering unto God, an active engagement with God uttered in anguished hope that there will be an answer. Rather than settle for neat theoretical solutions, the dangerous memory of the crucified and risen Jesus in solidarity with all the dead keeps the question open while laying down a hopeful, compassionate path for mature discipleship. Therefore, we speak of God with our face, holding the cross, rather than our back turned to the terrible event of Sep. 11.
Where are you? Where are you now? After the seven years of the tragedy, how have you changed? How do you see the steel beam cross standing up on the ground zero, hearing the gospel today, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life?” Is the cross the sign of the ruin or hope? If you see the message of hope through the cross, are you going to stay with fear, building up more missiles for defending the country, or with courage, self-reflecting on what we have done and how we treat others? Is the cross just informative to let us not to forget the catastrophe or transformative to move from despair to hope, shame to glory or death to life?
Just before my priestly ordination, the father who lost his only daughter in 9/11 came up to me, asking, “When you become a priest, would you say the mass for my daughter?” I was humbled by that. I said not only the mass but also pray every time I remember the family, the suffering that stay with us. (Turning to the cross on the wall in the church) I ask to myself, where can I go? How can I find hope? Praying, I look up the cross and understand that the cross should be lifted up, so that everyone will know the triumph of love over hate. I believe in the Lord’s saying to us in the first reading, “Look at it, you will live.” “Look at the cross, you will live.”