Where was God on September 11th?

A response given one year after the event.

Shakespeare wrote in the last lines of King Lear: “Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.” As I struggle with Shakespeare’s advice, I don’t know whether I should speak what I feel or what I ought to say. I may do both.

God was nowhere. God was neither on the planes nor in the Towers. God has nothing to do with September 11th. We do!!!! United States does! Maybe the right question to be asked then is: where were we? What did we do for this event to happen and what did we not do that allowed this event to happen? It is in us that we find the traces of where God was.

I believe that God sometimes, maybe most of the times, or even every time, comes after. God is like an ambulance, always after the events of our lives. God was in the air, God was in the debris, God could pass as the debris… God was fully there without being there. God was in the work of the firefighters, the paramedics and the volunteers. God was in the follow up of the event, consoling, giving people strength and wisdom to change our ways, to change our perceptions and to change our theologies. But I am not sure whether we were really changed. Today, I still don’t see God in most of what I hear. There are too many clouds of self-pity wrapped up in the pride of the patriotic icons such as the flag that somewhat prevents me from seeing God and experience God’s grace. Maybe it is because I am seeing war… And I don’t see God. Inspired by the singer Sting, I can only see how fragile we are and how difficult it is to be changed.

God was at my home at September 11th, a home that I may never find again. God was flying high above spreading her wings over the earth and the universe. Flying so high above that for a second God forgot the world completely. As soon as God heard the explosions she came back to us and saw the damage. All the debris was still in the air and God was astonished to see it all. God couldn’t believe it! Still apprehended by the shocking view of the spectacle of horror, God sat down and cried. God could not do otherwise. Sadness took over her chest and all the stars long gone could hear her weeping as a lonely whale in the deep sea. She remembered all the atrocities she saw throughout history. She saw people dying in Egypt; she saw the genocide in the conquista of Latin America, the genocide in Rwanda… She saw the black people of this country been beaten up, hanged and killed because of the color of their skin, she saw people been massacred by the dictatorship in Argentina, Brazil and many other countries, she saw the horrors of the war, she saw diseases killing people throughout the world, AIDS advancing in scary speed, she saw people gasping and despairing in their pain, she saw people stretching their hands to the skies crying for help but never receiving an answer, she saw faithful people having no money to buy bread and milk to their daughters and sons who were dying in front of their very eyes… She was tired of so much atrocity, of so much iniquity, of so much injustice. Still immersed in her thoughts, she stood up, wiped her tears away and tried to help as much as she could.  She carried people out of the remains, she saved some lives, and she gave all she had to help people. And she knew that her presence would make a difference. After September 11th, God is quieter than ever. But that’s not new…

In the Bible, since the New Testament, God hasn’t talked much. Nowadays, we have to struggle because sometimes it seems that God is still mute. Each time an atrocity happens, each time life is unfair God loses few words. As a consequence, God is running out of words. God has tried hard to keep as many words as God could. But there is no much left… In the short run, God’s eyes may well be all that God can offer to us: eyes, watered eyes, whipping eyes. If that is the case, we will be left with a negative or apophatic theology and we will call up the mystics to be our companions. One thing September 11th thought me: we are always aftering God…

As a liturgist, I must find ways in my body to gesture the pain, the doubts, the anger, the shame and the sorrow that go inside of me. This time I pray: “God, you who may be, you who may be watching over me, you who may heal my wounds, don’t you see that we are losing control that once we thought we had? Don’t you see that our actions seem too small before the grandiosity of the injustice? Don’t you see how often we are mistaken and our efforts are even forgotten and nobody pay attention anymore? Don’t you see how much far from home we all are? Have you seen what is left for us to celebrate? Haven’t you seen what we are celebrating? Self-pity, pride and arrogance. You God, who may be, may you look upon the poor that are so many, may you look upon those who die anonymously every day and are buried without a memorial, without a song, without a poem, without a name and without a history.   May you look upon the world as we “celebrate” the first year of September 11th and the beginning of a new war. Help us, come and save us, for we are wounded, we are lost in a road that we cannot tell exactly where it is located and where it is going to lead us. We wait for you as we wait for the ambulance to rescue us and take us to places we wish we knew the names. Help us all to go through the shadows of our potentiality to do wrong, to hurt and to kill. Help us to cross the indecipherable sea of the human heart and overcome the fury of the righteous religious beliefs, even our own. Beloved God, won’t you carry me home? Help me find the way back home, for I am lost. Take me home, curl me up in your arms and let me finally sleep… at home.”

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