Siao-Mei was five when she found herself in jail. Her mother was locked up because she protested against the arrest of her bishop. The girl was in jail because she had nowhere to go! This was mainland China during the Red Guard Era 1966-69.
The director of the prison offered the mother an early release if she simply declared that she is no longer a Christian and promised that they will no longer go to Church. The mother agreed and two weeks later she found herself on a stage in front of the entire village asserting that she is no longer a Christian.
When they returned home, Siao-Mei spoke boldly. “Mommy, I do not think we did the right thing.” The mother was taken aback… “I did it for you, my dear. I had to say this because you were crying all the time in prison.”
“Mother”, the child answered. “I promise you that if we return to jail for Jesus, I will not weep!”
The mother went back to the prison telling the prison director that she made a mistake. “I am a Christian and will remain so.” Both went back to prison. Siao-Mei no longer wept!
Life has dimensions that are larger than what we can visualize. In one of his best discourses ever, way back in 1972, Pope Paul VI, stated something that made many raise their eyebrows. He said clearly, “What are the Church’s greatest needs at the present time? Don’t be surprised at our answer and don’t write it off as simplistic or even superstitious: one of the Church’s greatest needs is to be defended against the evil we call the Devil!”
The world is beautiful, the Pope said that day. But we need to keep both our feet on the ground and acknowledge “the presence of Evil that is … an active force, a living, spiritual being that is perverted and that perverts others. It is a terrible reality, mysterious and frightening … a whole mysterious world, convulsed by a most unfortunate drama about which we know very little…”
There are things however that we do know. We know that the devil has a certain dominion over us. We know that he is the “number one enemy, the preeminent tempter”. He is the hidden adversary who sows errors and misfortunes in our lives.
I just met a charming, sweet beautiful girl, aged seven. What an innocent smile! “You baptized this girl!” grandma told the pastor and myself. Imagine my surprise when the pastor told me that her parents are two women! How depressing that perversion can become normal.
All of us know how destructive temptations can be. Alcohol or drugs that destroy so many families. Licentiousness that tear down many a teenagers’ life. Violence that ruins so many young adults… He is “a murderer from the beginning . . . and the father of lies,” as Christ defines him.
We need defenses. We cannot possibly defend such a formidable enemy on our own resources. “The Christian must be a militant; he must be vigilant and strong; and he `must make use of the special ascetical practices of prayer and fasting.”
Above all he must be drastic. A pastor in Haiti was telling the story how a certain man managed to bargain his way into what he considered a good deal. He got the house he wanted for half the price. The owner just put one condition. He would retain ownership of one small nail protruding from just over the door.
After several years, the original owner wanted the house back, but the new landlord was reluctant to sell. So the first owner went out, found the carcass of a dead dog, and hung it from the single nail he still owned. Soon the house became unlivable, and the family was forced to sell the house to the owner of the nail!
The pastor’s conclusion was crystal clear, “If we leave the Devil with even one small peg in our life, he will return to hang his rotting garbage on it, making it unfit for Christ’s habitation.”
Our reassurance is one. Jesus Christ already came and already fought the battle and already defeated the devil. The victory is ours. It is only a matter of time until we shall see the enemy dead in front of our eyes. What happened on Calvary and three days later just awaits its total manifestation. This is why Saio-Mei can … NOT to weep!
(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.