This story touches a very deep chord in my heart. It speaks of a soldier lying in a hospital bed during the First World War. He was not yet twenty and was pale and very quiet.
The surgeon to save his life had to amputate his right arm. After some hours, the doctor returned to see how this young soldier was getting by. “I am sorry,” he told him, “that you had to lose an arm.” That was all he dared to say and that was all he needed to say because the eyes of the soldier opened wide and looking calmly up into the face of the surgeon, just said, “I did not lose it, Doctor. I gave it!”
He loved his country so much that he was glad to give his arm for France.
In life you meet people, many, who always wish to ‘get’. They always crave for something – cars, money, affection, latest computer game. They are always thinking about themselves. So it is refreshing when you meet people, a few, who wish to ‘give’.
Jesus Christ was one of the latter. When he was going to die, his friends thought that he was going to be killed by his enemies. He said no, “I lay down my life so that I may take it up again. No man takes it away from me, but I lay it down of myself.”
It is helpful to remind ourselves that it was not Pilate or the Roman soldiers who took away his life. He himself freely and deliberately gave His life for us. Sole reason was His tremendous love for us. Life is a journey, and love is what makes this journey worthwhile.
We were loved and so we can love… When you feel forgiven, you feel like forgiving. When you have received a lot, spontaneously you give. To use the happy expression of Pope Benedict XVI in his Lenten message 2007, the Christian is asked “re-give His love to his neighbor, especially those who are suffering and experiencing difficulties”.
The film Chocolat is based on the book of the same name. The film relates the story of a small French town during Lent. Everyone is trying hard to avoid sweet foods but what should open at the same time? A chocolate shop! It is torture to walk past the shop with its velvety chocolate smells. Watching the movie, I could not help but thinking that the townsfolk had missed the point – especially when one of the most self-righteous characters breaks into the shop and stuffs himself on the chocolates inside.
Christianity (and Lent) is not about that kind of self-denial. There is very little value in simply giving up stuff! Yes, it is about giving up, but not things but life, your life. Giving up your life to let yourself be penetrated by God. St. Augustine said on one occasion that our whole life is a holy desire, the desire to let God penetrate in our lives. “God,” he says, “is all that we desire”. And once you let Him penetrate you, then giving becomes spontaneous and natural. Faith increases when you give it.
Everything is possible for anyone who believes and has zeal.
One of Mahatma Gandhi’s more famous quotes was supposedly spoken to a group of British journalists as they rode on a train through English-held India. He was asked, “Why is it that you speak so highly of Jesus yet you are not a Christian?” He quickly responded, “I would become a Christian… if I could just find one…”
As the Pope told us recently, “let us become Christians again.” Life is too short to be caught up in all its complexities. Just follow the simple advice of the wise man. “Sing as though no one can hear you. Dance as though no one is watching you. Love as though you have never been hurt before. Live as though heaven is on earth.”
Glenn E. Ludwig, wrote in his book Walking To and Walking From and Walking Through, “There are many times in life when we stand where the ways part and where choices must be made. It is often easier to trip along downhill than to walk the steady, or maybe rocky, uphill path. But the path uphill leads to a cross — an empty cross. And the one that walks beside us is the one who hung there and defeated it.”
No room for discouragement.
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.