The Suffering Servant
Ernest Gordon recalls this anecdote in his
book Miracle on the River Kwai. At the end
of the day's work, the tools were being counted.
Suddenly, the Japanese guard shouted that
a shovel was missing. He ranted that someone
had stolen it to sell it to the Thai. He
worked himself into a paranoid fury. When
nobody in the squadron budged, the officer
got his gun and threatened to kill them all
on the spot.
It was obvious he meant what he said. Finally,
one man stepped forward, stood firmly to
attention and said calmly, "I did it".
The office unleashed all his whipped up anger.
He kicked the helpless prisoner and beat
him first with his fists and then with the
barrel of his rifle he crashed his skull.
The men of the work detail picked up their
comrade's body, shouldered their tools and
marched back to camp. When the tools were
counted again at the guard house, no shovel
was missing. Greater love has no man than
this that a man lay down his life (innocently)
for his friends.
During the First World War, a church had
to be transformed into a hospital, the main
altar into an improvised operating table.
One man was badly wounded and his leg had
to come off at once. "You will have
to be brave", said the doctor, "This
is going to be very painful. We have got
no anaesthetic; it was all destroyed when
the hospital was hit."
The young man looked at the altar and pointed
with his head towards the crucifix over it.
"I shall be all right, Doctor"
he said. "Put me there. So long as I
can look at Him, I shall manage."
The Imitation of Christ gives us this precious
advice, "He who knows how to suffer
will enjoy much peace. Such a one is a conqueror
of himself and lord of the world, a friend
of Christ and an heir to heaven."
Carol's husband was killed in an accident
as he was driving home from work. The other
driver was a teenager with a very high blood
alcohol level. Jim died instantly. The teenager
was in the emergency room for less than two
hours. It was Carol's fiftieth birthday and
Jim had two plane tickets to Hawaii in his
pocket. He was going to surprise her. Instead…
"How did you survive this?" a friend
asked Carol a year later. Her eyes welled
with tears, but she managed to say, "The
day we got married, we promised to each other
that we should never leave home in the morning
without telling each other 'I love you'.
It got to be a joke between us with all the
hustle and bustle of life."
"The morning Jim died, he left a birthday
card in the kitchen and slipped out to the
car. I heard the engine starting. "Oh
no, you are not going away so easily…"
I rushed out to the car and banged on the
car window until he rolled it down and I
said the standard "I love you … today
also." That is how I survived knowing
that the last words I told Jim were "I
These are the last words Jesus Christ
tell us on our death bed!
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission
granted for any non-commercial use,
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