Last Updated: October 29, 2001


The Chinese symbol for crisis is a product of two Chinese words: danger
and opportunity. The USA and the world has not faced a greater crisis than
the terrorist assault on September 11, 2001 on the World Trade Centre in
New York and the Pentagon in Washington, DC. No other crisis in history
has resulted in the grounding of air traffic worldwide, the cessation of
trading on Wall Street, 24 hours commercial-free coverage by the media,
cancellation of all sporting and entertainment activities, and much more.
It is a time of unprecedented crisis. For many people, the events which
have been played and replayed on the TV screen looks surreal and
unbelievable. Many people have been trying to process the incident which
has left everybody in a state of shock, grief and anger. As people of God
with all these emotions in our hearts, what light does our faith shed on
these questions that some of us cannot even put into words. A short homily
such as this cannot pretend to have all the answers but, to help you in
your struggle to make sense out of this senseless catastrophe, I invite
you all to see this crisis as a time of great danger and great opportunity
as well.
In his first public reaction to the attack President George Bush said,
"The resolve of our great nation is being tested. But make no mistake, we
will show the world that we will pass this test." A time of test is a time
of danger (because one could fail the test) as well as opportunity (one
could pass the test and come out the better for it).  Our hope and prayer
is that not only President Bush and the American government, but also the
American people and the whole world will be able to make the right
decisions at this critical time and pass the test which this crisis
If this is a test, what then are the questions?  President Bush summarized
it in one word, the "resolve" or the spirit of the American people. I will
like to expand this under three headings:
(a) the American spirit of patriotism. Will the crisis tear Americans
apart or bring them closer together as a nation? Some people almost failed
this test when soon after the attack they doubled and tripled the price of
gasoline. But the American public soon rose to the challenge and the
heroism, generosity and self-sacrifice shown in the rescue effort shows
that this crisis has not broken but has rather strengthened the American
spirit of togetherness. The first test has indeed been passed.
(b) the American spirit of justice and fairness. The second test is: will
America be able to find and bring to justice the perpetrators of this
crime? From what we have seen so far, there is little doubt that the long
arms of justice will soon catch up with those responsible for this mayhem.
The question is, will people be able to hold their anger in check until
the right culprits are identified or will they take out their anger and
frustration on any person or group of persons who look like the suspects,
who come from their countries of origin or who belong to their religion?
While justice demands that guilty people be made to pay for their
misdeeds, fairness demands that no innocent persons be held responsible
for what they did not do. Terrorists have killed innocent Americans. If
Americans responds by killing other innocent people, how then can
Americans show that they are more civilized than the terrorists? Americans
will have passed the second test when they are able to do justice to whom
justice is due, and fairness to whom fairness is due.
(c) the American spirit as "one nation under God."  Before this crisis
America was fast sliding into the depths of religious indifference. To
expose the crucifix in the classroom was a crime, to say prayer in a
public place was politically incorrect. But all this suddenly changed
since disaster struck. Why must it take a disaster of such apocalyptic
proportions to bring America back to its Christian religious origins?
Someone has said that God whispers to us in our well-being and shouts to
us in disaster. If God is shouting to us in this terrible disaster what
else could God be saying except calling America back to the Christian
principles of her founding fathers. This is probably the ultimate test
that this crisis presents to America.
After the culprits have been identified and brought to justice, after the
tears have dried and time has healed all wounded hearts, after the dust
has settled and the collapsed houses have been rebuilt, maybe the test
that will remain is how Americans respond to their Christian heritage. I
think it was Cardinal Egan who said that this is a spiritual and moral
wake-up call for America. God help America to pass the test. God help us
all to pass the test.