The Paper Wall, Inscribed with Broken Words

[Posted on Facebook, September 11th.]

The gift of tears. Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris’s “If This is Goodbye" gives that gift. How we need it! The song is based on the last recorded phone call of a woman trapped in one of the WTC towers. The man says to her: “Your bright shining sun/Would light up the way before me/You were the one/Made me feel I could fly/And I love you/Whatever is waiting for me/If this is goodbye.”

We are all only one second, one diagnosis, one email, one rook's move away from losing everything we thought mattered. That is not a despairing thought. It is clarity of insight into our utter dependence on the goodness of God the Father, amidst the dark storms of an encroaching night of formlessness. The Father alone can send His Word and His Love into the abyss to rescue us. Recognizing our inherent instability is an inducement to solidarity and self-abandonment in faith. It is a clarion sounding us to remember, in the deep Augustinian sense of memory as personal presence. We must remember the dead. All of them. The three thousand who died that day sixteen years ago. The three thousand who die every day from abortion in this country.

And we must remember those the standards of Western success make transparent: the depressed, the suicidal, the disgraced, the addicted, the imprisoned, the violated, the abused, the refugee, the obsolescent working man, the ones left behind in the oxbows of history.

The price of bourgeois comfort is forgetfulness of our precarious position as creatures, on the knife's edge between being and nothingness, an oblivion obtained through the scapegoat mechanism that loads our chaos, our defects, onto the ones not seen in our social circles. We tell ourselves they alone are the losers in life.

But we are all losers, if shorn of love. Love alone repatriates us to the wholesome land. Love alone justifies. Love alone changes sinners from ghosts into solid persons. If we withhold that love from others, merciful love, solidary love, we start to hollow out, while the marginalized are being filled with the fullness of God through the humiliation of Christ crucified.