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Pastor's Column

Advent at the World Trade Center

Pastor’s Column

1st Sunday of Advent

November 27, 2022

“So too, you must also be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect,

the Son of Man will come.”

Seven years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the World Trade Center Memorial in Manhattan. There, one can find people from all over the world who have come on pilgrimage to learn, to grieve, to remember, to try to make sense of suffering somehow. Mixed in among us were still-grieving relatives, gently rubbing the names of loved ones etched into the two reflecting pool perimeters that once held the towers.

Among the many moving images that one finds there is the wall of faces; so many faces! Religious or not, Catholic, Jewish, Agnostic, Muslim, young, old: thousands of pictures of people who went to work that day, and simply never came home. The Lord came for them on a day they were not expecting, and their lives and deaths can speak deeply to us in our times.

Photo by Father Gary Zerr

Not knowing any of these people, I have to admit that I sat there and cried, just like almost everyone else there. Each person has a story to tell. Many individuals are represented in narrative form in movies you can watch, each life precious to God, and remembered by him, precious to him. In death, they speak to us of the preciousness of life, of our families that we are blessed to share in Thanksgiving and Christmas, and of our hope of eternal life. This silent wall of faces speaks of our own brief existence in this world, one that, because of our faith in Christ, is infused with deep meaning, for Christ, our Savior and Creator, also died like this. He is one of us. He was there too. And he is one with us in our sufferings.

Photo by Father Gary Zerr

Advent is a season of renewal and rebirth. The picture above was taken at twilight because I got lost on the subway coming home that evening and ended up back at the Trade Center. God always has a gift waiting for us, even when we think we are lost. Earth is not our home, but only a kind of subway station where we stay for a while. What matters here is our faith and how we live it and the people whose lives we are called to make a difference in. Remember always that Christmas, which we are all preparing for now, is not about what we receive (other than Christ!), but what we give to others.

Father Gary


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