Helen had a very difficult life. Her brother murdered, her mother died following this shock, her two brothers are mentally impaired. Because of a number of circumstances, she felt that God was calling her not to get married and to dedicate all her life to her two brothers. She could have put them in a home and made life easier for herself but she knew that God was directing her life to be their mother and sister. In a letter which she wrote to me, she said : "My life with my brothers is not easy. Even last Friday I cried and cried because in two seconds they literally destroyed all that with a lot of care and patience I had fixed the last days. You cannot deny them anything because they become so violent... But I know one thing : my life with them is not empty; I never feel alone. Even though I wimp a lot because that is me, my life is full and I am not sad. If they weren't part of my life, I also would be living an empty life, with no meaning, craving for someone in the EMPTY hope that he may give me a few moments of happiness. Between one 'pain' and the other, I prefer this one..."
Sheer basic wisdom. Someone once said that the secret in life can be summed in three phrases. Never fight life. Never resign to life. Simply accept it knowing that there is a treasure hidden in it. Even if it is beyond your understanding.
A Dumb Command
Peter was a good fisherman. He knew more about fish than Jesus who was a simple carpenter from Nazareth. The lake of Gennesaret was his home ground. He had just spent a whole night trying to catch fish and he had caught nothing. Everyone in the Mediterranean area knows that the best time to catch fish is during the night. You put a strong lantern in the dark night just outside your boat and as the fish come forward, attracted by this light, then it is child's play to throw down your nets and catch them. Hence he was very surprised when Jesus gave him this very strange command : "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch." What a dumb order! Why should he try again especially now that he had just cleaned his nets? And in broad daylight! The fishermen standing on the shores of the lake will surely mock him for his dumbness. He will be the butt of their jokes for that day!
But Peter decided to risk. He let down the nets. And .."When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink."
In risking, Peter discovered something very important. He discovered that God is not a cheater. That Jesus Christ is not a fraud. Jesus Christ is not fake! Not only He gives what He promises but He gives over-abundantly. God can be very extravagant. A very important disclosure for someone who lives in a society which is full of lies. A society which promises us happiness and feeds us with prozac.
A risk obviously
We also shall find ourselves many times in the same situation of Peter. Many times Jesus will come along and suggest dumb orders....
I remember my friend who once returned home early and found that his wife was betraying him. A shattering blow for the whole family. Everyone told him to be a man and fight for a divorce. 'She will do it again!' everyone told him, 'Trust once destroyed can never be built again.' He came to me and the only thing that I felt that Jesus Christ was telling me to relate was, 'Forgive, brother, forgive her...' A risk obviously. But ...what wisdom. I met this woman a couple of months ago and she was telling me : "And the amazing thing, Father, is that he never even hints at that incident. It is as if he has completely forgotten it..." A risk obviously.
There is this woman who is expecting her sixth child. Everyone is suggesting her a simple operation : tie your tubes. Then you will be more free. A counselor even told her that she is being irresponsible in having so many children. The doctor himself suggested that since the baby due will be delivered by caesarean, then it would be so smooth to tie the tubes... She is confused. The only word which I felt that Jesus Christ was telling me to relate was : "Trust... God can never gives us more than we can take...." A risk obviously.
Your husband has just been nasty to you. A voice inside you tells you : 'punish him, pay him back for it, make a bear face... Do not speak to him. One day. Two days. Three days... until he learns the lesson.' Another voice, the voice of Jesus Christ tells you : 'Get over it! Understand!' A risk obviously.
You had a rough day. You need some kind of gratification. Everyone needs gratification in life. Jesus Christ murmurs inside you 'Come to me and I will gratify you, I will give you the rest you need...' But another voice screams inside you : 'To heck with Jesus Christ! There is that magazine hidden in your drawer, or that video... They will release your tension. Eat. Drink. Watch TV.... They will calm you.' You have to choose.. A risk obviously.
What prevents us from happiness is our idea of happiness. God has his plans for us. I have my plans for me. God starts working out His pans for me. I resist. I get frustrated because I want something else. Stupid me!
When will I realize that God is smarter than me?! When will I realize that His plans are better plans?!
If only we learn to surrender more to his care. If only we learn to obey more Jesus. He is so bright. And He loves us so much...
Beyond our understanding!
Nan Pinkston is a nurse. She was assigned to take care of Rebekah, young mother of 32, who thought she would have a lifetime to raise her three girls. She was under chemotherapy after breast-cancer surgery. The first time the nurse presented herself to Rebekah, the conversation went on like this : "As I rubbed alcohol on her arm to prepare it for the intravenous line, Rebekah laughed nervously. "I have to tell you I'm terrified of needles." "It'll be over before you know it," I said. "I'll give you a count of three." Rebekah shut her eyes tightly and murmured a prayer until it was over. Then she smiled and squeezed my hand. "Before you go, could you get my Bible from the table?" I handed her the worn book. "Do you have a favorite Bible verse?" she asked. 'Jesus wept.' John 11:35." "Such a sad one," she said. "Why?" "It makes me feel closer to Jesus, knowing he also experienced human sorrow." Rebekah nodded thoughtfully and started flipping through her Bible as I shut the door quietly behind me."
For a time it looked as if Rebekah's chemotherapy was working. Then doctors discovered that the cancer had spread to her lungs. It was terminal.
"One day when I entered her room, I found her talking into a tape recorder. She picked up a yellow legal pad and held it out to me. "I'm making a tape for my daughters," she said. I read the list on her pad: starting school, confirmation, turning 16, first date, graduation. While I worried how to help her deal with death, she was planning for her children's future. She usually waited until the early hours of the morning to record the tapes so she could be free from interruptions. She filled them with family stories and advice -- trying to cram a lifetime of love into a few precious hours. Finally, every item in her notes had been checked off and she entrusted the tapes to her husband. I often wondered what I would say in her place...
It was three o'clock one afternoon when I got an urgent call from the hospital. Rebekah wanted me to come immediately with a blank tape. What topic has she forgotten? I wondered. She was flushed and breathing hard when I entered her room. I slipped the tape into the recorder and held the microphone to her lips. "Ruthie (6 years old), Hannah(4), Molly (2) -- this is the most important tape." She held my hand and closed her eyes. "Someday your daddy will bring home a new mommy. Please make her feel special. Show her how to take care of you. Ruthie, honey, help her get your Brownie uniform ready each Tuesday. Hannah, tell her you don't want meat sauce on your spaghetti. She won't know you like it separate. Molly, don't get mad if there's no apple juice. Drink something else. It's okay to be sad, sweeties. Jesus cried too. He knows about sadness and will help you to be happy again. Remember, I'll always love you." I shut off the recorder and Rebekah sighed deeply. "Thank you, Nan," she said with a weak smile. "You'll give this one to them, won't you?" she murmured as she slid into sleep. (Guideposts, 1997 Volume 52, No. 5.)
Believe me, when I read stories like this one, everything, yes, just everything, acquires a new perspective. The true perspective. And I realize how lucky I am, how lucky Rebekah is, that we are able to stand on this solid rock who is Jesus Christ. Knowing one thing. That He will never, never, let me down. Rebekah knew it.
Yes! He will never, never let you down. Never.
(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.