'Because you are so small you cannot imagine how it looked from where I see, so far above.
You imagine either that it was as horrifying to me as it was for you, or that I barely noticed it at all.
You think either that I was there in the midst of it, or that I was nowhere to be found.
You believe that I can be either here or there, but not in more than one place at a time.
You have used the awful events of that day as a reason to abuse me or to dismiss me. And some of you have re-shaped me in your own image.
Some of you have run to shelter beneath the shadow of my wings; others have vowed never again to speak my Name.
Once, long ago, from a whirlwind I asked a man, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth!?”
And what could he say, because he was so small?
And now, you, from your own whirlwinds, throw the question back at me: “Where were you?” Demanding to know, as though it was your right to ask. “Where were you?” you want to know. As though you are not small.
You forget that I created mastodon and mammoth, leviathan and pachyderm. You forget that with my finger I rippled the rocky ranges into majestic peaks; that to stir the oceans I dip my pinkie into depths of sea too dark and cold for you to bear.
You forget that from my mind came forth honeybees and hummingbirds, mosquitoes and amoebas; you do not realize that I know the shapes and colors of sub-atomic particles and can count them all from my bed.
You are, in your own way, smaller than the hummingbird or honeybee: more fragile, less stable, oddly enough: more flighty. At least the honeybees ask no questions of me. At least the hummingbirds wage no wars
I can see that day, that is to you ten years ago, unfolding before me now. The sky is clear and bright, you remember.
I can see the jets taking off. I can hear the radio communications. I can see the villainy and the heroism already in the hearts of men. I know who is who.
I can feel the pounding hearts as the plan unfolds. I can smell the cool slivers of steel as tiny blades are unfolded.
I hear my Name taken in vain. I have heard this before.
I have dispatched my angels before you even know what is happening. They are ministering to the dead in the cockpits before you even know the door is locked.
I know this is unfair. I know you would prefer it if a legion of those angels would have carried the planes on their shoulders. I would have preferred it, too, for that is my way.
But this is going your way: the way of men, the way of wars, the way of pain, the way of death. So long ago you chose this way, and really, you have never stopped choosing it. And so it goes, as a writer once said
I feel the explosive heat in Arlington. I see the field in Shanksville that I know is being readied to become a quickly dug, and shallow grave.
And I see those two proud, slender towers, reaching up to me, as they have these thirty years or so. Extended like a child’s fingers, waiting for me to grasp them and hold on tight, as though if I held on tight enough I could protect you from everything, as children imagine.
I hear the music of the breeze between the towers. I do not wish to see this end; I have no desire to hear this music cease
Angry men are only angry men – the shape or the name or the color of their anger makes no difference. Rage sounds the same in almost any language. The urge to destroy fits beneath almost any uniform. The accents of hateful slogans are lost in the shouting – they sound more or less the same to me
And I can hear every cry on every flight that day. And I can hear every gasp for air on every floor of those towers. I know the sound of every voice. Do you think I didn’t hear? Do you think I didn’t listen?
I hear every prayer, and I am answering every one – though I know how hard it is for you, in your time, to recognize this.
I see the bursts of flame, like violent incisions in those long, elegant fingers: fiery blood rushing out, and with it so much life.
I know what happens when the air is thick with smoke. I know when the elevators stopped running, and I can see the chaos in the stairways.
I can count the firemen making their way up – and they have angels, too. I can feel their valor climbing every step, and I know, as they do by now, that black bunting was made for days like this.
I see men and women peering out of vertiginous windows and making calculations of mortality. They will jump, but not without my consort.
I hear the struggle of resistance over land the Quaker’s once claimed for peace. And I know there are real martyrs on that plane – though not the ones who sought to claim the title for themselves.
Because you are so small, I know, I know how much this hurts. I know how hard it is for you to bear
I remember how long ago all the brothers of Joseph dreamt of murdering him for jealousy and spite. Do you remember this, too?
I see them toss him into a pit, reluctantly letting him live. And I hear them haggling with the slave traders, as they settle on a price – 20 pieces of silver is his life’s worth. He is small, too.
I watch the brothers return to their father without the youngest, his favorite. I remember his worry. I see the cruel brothers take the boy’s coat and dip it in goat’s blood to convince the old man that the apple of his eye is dead, so they can be rid of him at last.
Where do you think Joseph’s dreams came from? Who do you think guided him, like a boat downwind, through the highest corridors of Pharaoh’s court? Who do you think blessed him, although he was so small?
I watched, years later, as his brothers made their journey toward Egypt, looking for grain, in the days of famine. I saw the gleam of recognition in Joseph’s eye when they arrived. I listened as he sent them back for his youngest brother. I saw Benjamin return to Joseph. I heard Joseph wail in mourning for the family that had been lost to him but was at last restored. I saw Jacob rise from his sickbed to be reunited with his son.
And after their father was dead, I saw the crafty brothers stand beside their long-lost brother and beg for Joseph’s forgiveness.
And this is what I heard him say: “Do not be afraid… even though you intended to do harm to me; God intended it for good….”
You intended evil; but God intended it for good. Which sounds absurd –that God can bring good out of evil – which sounds like grasping at straws; which sounds like the worst kind of kitschy, feel-good theology you can imagine…
…Until you remember that it was only Joseph’s way of saying, “I forgive you."
I remember all this as I watch men thinking evil against one another, and acting on their thinking. I remember Joseph’s simple calculus, and his faith in my good intentions.
I remember how small he was; how small you are.
I remember it as I see again the flames, as I hear again the screams, as I feel again the horror that you felt that day.
And I remember it as I hear you demanding of me: “Where were you?!? What were you doing when the planes were hijacked, when the Pentagon was on fire, when the fuselage dug out a grave in Shanksville, when the towers burned and fell?!?
“Where were you?!? What were you doing?”
They intended it for evil; how can I intend it for good?
And I fear you cannot comprehend or even hear this answer. Maybe it is because you are so small. For I know how much you have suffered. I know how you now live with grief. I know how satisfying vengeance would be. I know how impossible justice is.
I know you need me to hold you in the palm of my hand, because you are so small. I know you are fragile and beautiful. I see my own image every time I look at you. I know you are the most wonderful and most difficult thing I have ever made.
And I promise that because you are so small, I have never left you on your own – not even when flames engulfed you. I have never removed my hand from you. I have never let you out from beneath the shadow of my wings – especially when you could not fly and you needed to
I know you want answers from me. I know you want to know where I was, what I have been doing.
I will tell you, although I fear you will not believe me, and even if you do, I suspect you will not be satisfied with the answer. I expect you will want more.
Where was I? What was I doing?
I was forgiving, and forgiving, and forgiving.
When Cain took his brother’s life, I was forgiving.
When Moses killed an Egyptian, I was forgiving.
When Joseph was reunited with his brothers, I was forgiving.
When my own children prayed to a golden calf, I was forgiving.
When they were driven into exile, I was forgiving.
When my Son was denied a clean room in which to be born, I was forgiving.
When he was betrayed, mocked, and hung on a Cross, I was forgiving.
When my children were persecuted, I was forgiving.
When my church splintered into fragments, I was forgiving.
When my beloved were sent into gas chambers, I was forgiving.
When murderers stole my holy Name from the lips of the muezzin, I was forgiving.
Wherever men with evil intentions plot in their hearts and act out those plots, I intend it for good. But there is only one way to do it: to forgive, and forgive, and forgive.
Until then you are just brothers who have betrayed each other; who have thrown each other into a pit and are haggling over the price of a life’s worth. Until then, all the evil intended cannot be intended for good.
For you men – who bear my image, the imprint of my thumb, the hallmark of my making – you continue to intend evil against one another; you continue to dig pits for one another; you continue to think that a life can be haggled over as though it was yours to give or take… because you are so small.
You intend so much evil; but I intend it for good…
…which is to say that I forgive, and I forgive, and I forgive.'
Preached by Fr. Sean Mullen
11 September 2011
Saint Mark’s Church, Philadelphia