A God's Eye
I had my first helicopter ride on September 4th, 2001. If you have ever seen a movie or TV show that has aerial shots of New York, it was probably the work of my friend Al Cerullo. He is one of the most skilled helicopter pilots in the world, and is the only pilot who is allowed to fly his commercial helicopter over Manhattan. On that September day, he had just finished a shoot for a television commercial, and he invited me for a spectacular private tour of the city from the air. We flew over all the boroughs, but the highlight of course was over Manhattan—Times Square, Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge. And at one point, we flew in a circle around the World Trade Center, both towers gleaming in the orange glow of a setting sun. We were close enough to see people working in their offices, people dining in Windows on the World. I remember commenting to Al that they were so lucky to have such a perspective to look upon out their windows. I imagined that the view inspired their ideas, gave reason to dream about an ideal world. In the film world, when you aim your camera from such a high place downward, it’s called a God’s eye shot because you can see it all in one look like God does. Al smiled at me, and pointed to the helicopter in which we were riding, and I got it—it’s also his own view every day, and he considers himself so lucky to have a job that gives him a seat above this jewel of a city in which we live, and that allows him to make movies that help us see things we can’t always see.
A week later there was nothing to circle around at the site of those buildings, which suddenly had a new, frightening name, Ground Zero. And in the weeks and months afterwards, my first helicopter flight took on a greater meaning for me as I tried to make sense of the ugly wound that had scarred my beloved New York. Like Al, like the women and men who worked in the twin towers, I was able to view the city and the world the way I think God sees it: this incredibly complex, beautiful creation which is home to billions and billions of people just like us, but who are often blind to the gift we are given in one another. You know, from up there, you can see the entire city of New York in one glance—the Bronx over there, Queens and Brooklyn ahead, Staten Island behind and to the right, and right below, the isle of Manhattan. And all of it, all of us, held together like on thin wires, but our physical connectors of bridges and tunnels and highways and subways.
And in this incredibly constructed jewel of a city, are people like us: people who dream of impossibilities and sometimes make them real. People like us who triumph and fail in their efforts, who love and hate, who build and destroy, who sin against one another and God, and who are loved every second of their unique lives by the one who knew them before they knew themselves.
In the Gospel, Jesus calls his friends up to the top of the mountain where he has been praying. Up there, where they could have God’s perspective. I’m sure he stood there with them for a quiet moment, as they all looked out upon the valleys, the plains, the seashore off in the distance, and everywhere the villages where their families struggled with the daily challenges of life. As he named each one up there, maybe he simply pointed gestured to what lay before them. The challenge and the mission must have been clear: they were being sent to all that, to all of them, to all of us. The Greek word for sent is apostellein. From up there on the mountain, where they could see the world as God sees it, Jesus named them as apostles, and invited them to join him in the hard work of restoring its smoldering ruins into the paradise that it was meant to be.
It's the same for us, you know. Jesus has called each and every one of us to the God’s eye view, and invites us to join him in restoring the world that has been damaged and broken. We are sent today to forgive, to heal, to bless, and to love even the most unloveable. This is our mission, and if not us to do it, who else will?