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 love you!”

These are the last words Jesus Christ will tell us on our death bed!


(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.