The second requirement for prophetic communities, Sister Simone told us, might be the hardest of all: the need to “touch the pain of the world as real.” That is, experience it without trying to fix it; letting it break your heart. “Having a broken heart makes room for everyone.”
This morning I’m sitting two blocks from the Pentagon, remembering that day 22 years ago, letting it break my heart again. Nothing we have done in the last two decades has made an attack like that any less likely. It might be minimally more difficult to execute a plan like the 9/11 attack than it was in 2001, but no one who was truly determined could be deterred. All deterrence measures assume that the attackers want to survive. That wasn’t true in 2001, and it’s not true now.
So how do we live broken-hearted? What are we supposed to do, if not try to fix things? We are supposed to build community. We are supposed to broaden that community. We are supposed to love our enemies, even when they lie and persecute us. The instructions are right there in the New Testament. Jesus gave them to us, and he was not equivocal. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
How do we form that community? We come together with radical acceptance. We listen. We celebrate. Coming together makes hope possible, because — as Sister Simone reminded us — hope is a communal virtue.
Bruce Springsteen’s album The Rising, which I always listen to on this day, gets it. It starts with a lonesome day; it moves on to Mary’s Place.
Tell me, how do you live brokenhearted?
Meet me at Mary’s place. We’re gonna have a party.
Turn it up.