The modern airliner on the runway was a beauty. It was equipped with the latest equipment and missiles. It could fly at supersonic speeds and quickly race to great heights. If an enemy plane were in the vicinity, the jet's pilot could raze that plane miles away, before the plane's pilot could even see him!

The pilot climbed into the jet and off he flew, leaving the earth far behind as he soared above the clouds. He straightened himself in his seat, naturally proud of his jet and of himself for qualifying to fly such a stylish mode of transportation.

However, after he reached cruising altitude, the pilot heard a strange noise. He took off his helmet, and recognized the sound - it sounded like someone gnawing on rubber or plastic. Looking closely down below the instrument panel, to his horror the pilot saw a rat, out of his reach and gnawing on the main electrical wire between the jet's controls and its engine. If the rat were to cut through that line, the jet would zigzag out of control and crash in a few seconds.

The pilot's first instinct was to descend - to force an emergency landing. But he realized it was too late. He was too high up and there was not enough time to land. So he decided to ascend - maybe the rat would not survive at a higher altitude.

The pilot put on his oxygen mask, boosted power to the jet's engine, and quickly rose as high as he could go. Soon enough the gnawing sound ended. When the pilot landed safely, he found the rat - dead.

The pilot was highly trained, at the top of his profession. His equipment was the best that technology could provide. But his safety was threatened by the appetite of one of the most primitive of animals - a rat.

Like the jet pilot, we live in a world of high technology. Automatons make our clothes, microwave ovens cook our food, cordless telephones carry our voices, and computers analyze our cars and our everything. And yet our lives are still influenced by many things people faced centuries ago.

Hate, envy, and dishonesty continue to exist. We are still plagued by temptations to strike out in anger, cut corners to take the lead, and compromise with the truth.

And something else has not changed: most people say they want to be delivered from temptations, but really would like to keep in touch with them.

We know certain things are wrong, yet we still flirt with them. As our power of resistance weakens, we think that one small compromise of our principles won't matter. But it does. If you lie down with dogs, you will rise with fleas. Dallying with wrong is always unhealthy.

They say that a desert father, when troubled by a thought which said, forget about today and repent tomorrow, would wisely reply "Today I'll show my repentance with works, as for tomorrow, let God's will be done."

Saint Paul is right. "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." This will lead you to new spiritual altitudes that will kill any rats lingering around! Scripture, Eucharist, Community living are the real elevations where only good dwells.

(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.