Ilda is an Italian woman. Because of very serious health problem, she had her legs and her arms amputated. She is just a trunk... lying all day in bed or on a special sofa, custom made for her. Many people visit her. Many just pity her. And this hurts her immensely.
"It is not so much the physical pain which many times I can take, neither the sense of helplessness which I am in - she has to depend on others for all her movements - but it is this sense of false compassion which many people express when they speak with me, that irritates me. You know the kind of remark "poor girl, would it not be better if she is relieved of her pain" meaning would it not better if I die! or the good people who say "Would it not be better if the good God takes her with him" or "why does God permits this; why does he not send some of these discomforts and adversities to the rich and wicked?!" These comments, even if said with a good intention, hurt."
"What do you say yourself?' I asked.
"The truth? Father Pius, do you want to hear the truth?"
"Yes", I said.
"I just say "Lord, you are good!"
Would you believe it?!
The dog is loose
Pain exists and many times its is so well hidden. I was quite disturbed this week reading the news in the paper of the murder-suicide of an couple - he 56, she 43 - in St Marys, Ontario. What troubled me most what not so much the fact itself - which is very tragic - but the fact that it took everyone by surprise. "He is the one guy I never thought this would happen to!" a family member said. "They got along good together. We did not think anything was wrong", was the comment of the brother. His employer stated "He was certainly an excellent employee. He came to work everyday, he was conscientious. I ever knew anything other than a mild-mannered, hard-working individual."
I was troubled because I realized once more how people can be living near us without us realizing the tragedies they are living. Perhaps at our own home. Perhaps in this Church community this evening. Deep serious hidden problems. Deep serious predicaments.
Jesus Christ in the Gospel of Luke chapter 10 speaks of a man who fell in the hands of the robbers. They stripped him beat him and went away "leaving him half dead". This man is us. Many try to play carnival. But everyone knows that when carnival finishes - when the movie, the disco, the sex, the eating, the bottle finishes - you are alone. Terribly alone in your crap.
But who are these robbers? Are they just our problems and anxieties? Our nagging wife, our arrogant husband, our rebellious children? Our never ending financial concerns? Yes, in a certain sense, all these are robbers because they steal our peace of mind and our serenity. But there is a more malicious and lethal robber who basically is at the root of all our problems. The Father of the Church say that these robbers are the devils. We have an enemy!
Probably you read this week also about that dog, a rottweiler who managed to get hold of a five year old girl and he butchered her. The paper said "the dog tore flesh around the girl's crotch and buttocks, punctured her head and back and ripped her open in 39 places". This is what the devil says. If he manages to get hold of you, he wipes you out. He sinks his teeth in your flesh and maul you.
We live in such a strange world. So many promises given and so little delivered. I was watching this movie which portrays the life of a high fashion model who goes in this world of high class modeling believing that glamour and being on the front page of magazines would give her the glory and the happiness which she never had when she was a kid growing in a dysfunctional family. At 26 she found herself dying of aids, her flesh falling apart from her body. So sad.
The dog has been chained
We need someone who can keep this dog at bay. We need even more. We need someone who can heal the wounds which this dog has inflicted on us. Someone who can have real pity on us. Who dares to stop and bandage our bleeding wounds and dirty his hand with our blood and dirt.
We need a good Samaritan in our life.
This is what Christianity is all about. This someone exists. Jesus Christ came and fought this tremendous battle against the devil and managed to chain this dog, the devil. He suffered terrible injuries in this fight and still carries the scars of the biting and the mauling. But he managed to bind him in chains. The devil can now bark and frighten you. But he cannot bite you.
Unless..... you approach him. Unless you put yourself within striking distance! That is why the only smart thing in life is to avoid going near this dog, this devil, this rottweiler. Because if you do, then you suffer like hell. He will strip you naked of all your internal resources. Avoid the occasions of sin, the Church used to teach us!
And on the other hand, remain always near Jesus. He is always accessible, always available, always welcoming, always close. As Saint Augustine said, by loving the unlovable, you have made me lovable!
Jesus came to look for us. He is so full of patience. Sin after sin. 8,125,469 times have I sinned. So many times and more, have I failed him! And yet He keeps forgiving me. He keeps hoping. He keeps believing. He keeps rescuing me! He is so tender. So compassionate. So sympathetic with me. The Fathers of the Church call him "Bread" a bread which has been broken to pieces for you and for me.
This is why, Pope John Paul II, speaking to the Dominican Order just today, July 13, said : "When Christ is excluded or denied, our vision of human purpose dwindles; and as we anticipate and aim for less, hope gives way to despair, joy to depression. ... Life is not valued and loved, hence the advance of a certain culture of death, with its dark blooms of abortion and euthanasia."
Once I had in my library a book called "If I Only Had One Sermon" . The author said that if he had only one sermon to give in all his life, he would definitely add this short story.
"A friend visited an elderly woman badly crippled by arthritis. When asked, "Do you suffer much?" she responded, "Yes, but there is no nail here," and she pointed to her hand. "He had the nails, I have the peace." She pointed to her head. "There are no thorns here. He had the thorns, I have the peace." She touched her side, "There is no spear here. He had the spear, I have the peace."
This is the beauty of our faith : He fought the battle. He was wounded. he was even killed. So that I can have peace.
How can you not love Him?
(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.