(Delivered at a vigil in Sunset Park, Brooklyn on September 11, 2010.)

Today is indeed a somber day for every citizen of this nation--especially those who live in New York City--a day when we remember the 3,000 people brutally murdered by one cowardly act of terrorism, and when we remember the hundreds of firefighters and police officers who gave their lives to save others.

I remember that day like it happened yesterday. I was in the Empire State Building when the first plane hit and ran outside to view the towers burning after the second plane hit. I was stuck in Manhattan and could not go home to Brooklyn until the next day.

Consequently, our church identified 203 children that were traumatized because they knew someone or had a family member that died in the attack.

When the Twin Towers fell, they were symbols of our nation’s economic power and greatness, but they were not capable of encasing the great spirit of our city and nation. Thus, we were able to rise again with even more resolve and unity in the midst of the rubble, even as our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ rose from the dead after being three days in the belly of the earth.

For example, out of the rubble of that day our Children of the City birthed a program that aided these traumatized children and their families in our community with our “Heal New York” outreach.

The terrorists were trying to put our nation in fear which would result in taking away our freedom. While we must never underestimate the resolve of our enemies, we must never allow them to control our lives--either with fear and intimidation or with our own acts of violence and disrespect against a particular religion and its followers. That would put us in the category of the terrorists, which would mean they have already won the victory!

As a Christian bishop, I have spoken and written against the proposed burning of Qurans which would do nothing but incite further hostility and break down the doors of dialogue between Christians and Muslims. At the same time, it is equally wrong for the followers of Islam to riot in the streets, burn American flags and, as has been done in the past in other nations, burn Bibles, crosses, and church buildings.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I remember His words in the Gospel of Saint Matthew chapter five when He says “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” He also said to His followers as recorded in Saint John’s Gospel, “Peace I give you, my peace I leave with you, not as the world gives give I unto you.” Again later on in that Gospel He says, “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer: I have overcome the world”!

Finally, Jesus dealt with the root issues that cause fighting, jealousy, and global wars when He died on the cross for the sins of the world and rose from the dead--thus taking away hatred and placing within His followers His love and peace for all humankind, irrespective of their ethnicity, gender, economic status, or religion.

May we in Sunset Park serve as a shining light as we serve our community, battle against hatred in all its ugly forms, and love our neighbors as we love ourselves as Jesus told us in Matthew 22:37-40.

Let us pray:

Dear Lord, may you grant the leaders of our community the wisdom to facilitate a purposeful unity capable of meeting the needs of our residents and elevating their quality of life. May all the residents have the wisdom and motivation to work effectively to support their families as well as living in harmony with their neighbors. We also bless you Lord for the fallen heroes that were murdered on that fateful day, and we especially pray for their families and friends, that we would all learn to honor their memories by living lives in accord with the constitutional freedoms so many have died to secure. May we never forget these heroes and may we never cease striving for truth and justice. Amen.

Joseph Mattera