- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 11, 2002

The following is an excerpt from a sermon preached by the Rev. Franklyn McAfee on Sept. 15, 2001, at a memorial Mass at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington. The Mass was for lawyer and author Barbara Olson, one of the passengers on American Airlines Flight 77 who died September 11 when hijackers crashed the plane into the Pentagon.

It is most appropriate that we gather for this memorial Mass for Barbara Olson in this cathedral dedicated to St. Thomas More, a lawyer and a government official. He reminds us that the legal profession and work in government are noble professions.
It is also appropriate that we assemble to offer this Mass for Barbara and her family on the day in which the Catholic liturgical calendar is set aside to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of Lady of Sorrows.
In the final moments of that awful drama, we all know that Barbara called her husband, Ted, on her phone, to inform him of what was going on, to ask for his advice and tell him of her love. We can only imagine what went through Ted's mind as his wife talked with him, especially since he was aware of the attacks in New York.
His wife was about to die, and there was absolutely nothing he could do. He was absolutely powerless. He was solicitor general of the United States, and he could do nothing for the woman he loved.
The feast of Our Lady of Sorrows honors the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, who stood next to the cross on which hung her own flesh and blood, nailed there by violent men.
She saw her own son dying, and she was unable to help. Only a parent or spouse can understand and know that pain. Mary stood there unable to do anything. She was his mother. She would reach up and take him off that cross. But she could not. She was powerless.
Rightfully, the church has traditionally placed on the lips of the Virgin Mary the words of Scripture: "All ye who pass by the way, stop and consider if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow. Do not call me Naomi (which means beautiful), call me Mara (which means bitter), for the Lord hath quite filled me with bitterness."
I cannot explain the madness that took place on Tuesday. For what we saw with our own eyes is the face of evil. And evil cannot logically be explained because, as those of you who are steeped in the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas know, evil malum is nihil. It is nothing.
Since God is existence itself God told Moses, "I am who I am" evil would be non-being. Nothingness. And to confront nothingness is to come face to face with unspeakable horror.
We can, however, understand how people would be compelled to murder with enthusiasm so many people. A terrorist in not born. Terrorists are made, with every conscious decision they make in life to hate, to choose death rather than life.
Remember Terry Waite, the Anglican envoy who negotiated with terrorists for the release of the hostages in Lebanon, and who himself became a hostage and suffered? He later wrote, "The terrible thing about terrorism is that ultimately it destroys those who practice it. Slowly, but surely, as they try to extinguish life in others, the life within them dies."
And where there is no light, there is darkness. Nothing.
St. John, in his first epistle, answers the common question: "How can anyone do something like this?" He tells us how. He says that "Anyone who hates his brother is in darkness. He walks in the dark and has no idea of where he is going because the darkness has made him blind."
Speculation is all around on who is responsible for the attacks on our country. With amazing speed, we have identified the terrorists who took over the planes, and we probably know who masterminded it. But who is really behind it all?
We are speaking of an enormity of hate and evil here, for those were evil acts. But evil is not something. Evil is someone: Satan.
St. Paul warns us in his letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 6: "We are not contending against flesh and blood, brothers, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual host of wickedness."
Satan has best been described by a mystic. She said of him: "He in whom there is no love." That's something hard for us to comprehend. "He in whom there is no love at all." Not a drop of love. "He in whom there is no love." Absolute hate. Darkness. Nothing.
Scripture calls him the father of lies. He is the cause of division, hate and rebellion.
Christ had a name for him also. He called him "murderer."
A handful of terrorists commandeered four planes, crashing three of them, including Flight 77, into symbolic buildings, killing in the process thousands of real flesh-and-blood people with families. These terrorists gave their lives and so took the lives of so many others, with no hesitation at all. Have Satan and death won?
What did Americans do when they heard the shocking news and saw the devastation? Did they take to the streets with signs and placards, marching with fists upraised, saying, "Death to terrorists!" No, they did not.
What did they do? They took to the streets in search of places to give blood. In fact, in some places so many of them that there was a seven-hour wait to give blood. They took to the streets to bring food to those who were rescuing people. They took to the streets to go to church, to hold candlelight vigils, to pray.
There's something happening in America, and it's something good. God pulls good out of evil.
Then there are those more than 50 New York policemen and 300 fireman, who are probably dead. They gave their lives to save others. What heroism. What love. Greater love no man has than to lay down his life for those he loves. In the midst of the rubble, signs of love, signs of the power of life, the finger of God writing straight with crooked lines.
During the devastation of World War ll, Pope Plus Xll said, "The future belongs to those who love, not to those who hate."
Barbara Olson, full of life, cheerful, laughing, smiling, loving, was the opposite of the dark powers that brought her death. But their evil deed was in vain.
We are people of life. And no terrorist, no matter how powerful, can take that away. As Pope John Paul ll has said, "When God gives life, He gives it forever." We believe in the resurrection of the body on the Last Day. We Catholics also believe that the soul is immortal; it cannot be destroyed. We believe that Barbara Olson is alive, not just in our hearts and in our memories, but actually alive, fully conscious and aware. Now.
We know this because Christ is risen from the dead. And if it isn't true, if Barbara is really gone and gone forever, if you will never see her smile again, or hear her laughter, then this is all playacting. And I had better go and get another job.
Because there is an empty tomb in Jerusalem, our hearts, though mourning, are full today. We will see Barbara again.
St. Paul wrote these words, which have become the Christian's battle cry ever since: "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?"



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