Manuel Duenas is a seminarian from Newark who has been helping the Seminary here in Guam for the last three years. He was born and raised in Burgos, the birthplace of Blessed Diego de San Vitores. Whenever he gets the opportunity, he narrates a Talmudic story, which I find highly entertaining and instructive.
It speaks about God, who one day walking in the Garden of Eden, is surprised to find a dove badly battered and beaten. He asks what happened and the dove tells him the story of this cat that is always chasing her and playing roughly with her. “You should do something, dear God” the dove says. “He has four strong legs and I have only these two tiny feet. I am no match for him. He easily outruns me.” “No problem,” says God and in a creative touch of genius, puts two strong beautiful wings on the body of the dove.
A few days pass and again God is walking in his beloved garden when He again comes across the dove that once more is badly battered. She is full of scratches, abrasions and the feathers on her wings had all been plucked away. God is surprised and He approaches the dove asking for an explanation. “What happened? You should be better off with these wings!” God exclaims. “Better off, my foot!” retorted sadly the dove. “Now it is more difficult to run away. These two burdens which you have put on my body are weighing me down. They are heavy and it is very awkward to carry them. The cat is making a feast of my clumsiness.”
“No, no, no, my dear dove!” says God, “you were not supposed to carry the wings, the wings were supposed to carry you! I gave you wings purposely so that you can fly away from the face of danger…”
The Talmud concludes by saying that each one of us has two wings which are the Torah or the laws which God gave us. They are supposed to help us to soar but, as you and I well know, many times we see them as an impediment to happiness because we believe that they do not let us have the fun that we would like to have in life.
Laws are the directions, the road signals that direct us so as to go straight to our destination. If we do not follow them, we shall lose our way and perhaps never arrive. The first one to suffer when we break the rules is ourselves. The prodigal son thought the far country was where fun was at, but in the end, everything he sought for and wanted was to be found at home – with his father. It had been there all along.
The Church is a mother full of compassion and wisdom and so when she gives us instructions she does it for our own benefit. G.K. Chesterton puts it in his slick funny way, ‘I don’t want the Church to be right when I am right. I want the Church to be right when I am wrong.’
Breaking the laws basically means shooting at our own legs. The World Health Organization published recently an alarming statistic on suicides in the world today. Among the different findings, they noted that in Germany, among young people a suicide is committed every 47 minutes! Imagine that! In Spain, suicide is the first cause of death among young people ages 14-29. More young people die out of suicide in Spain than car accidents or sicknesses! I do not have the statistics in the Marianas but, unfortunately even here, we constantly keep hearing of teen suicides.
WHO found out also that the percent of suicide among children of separated parents is double compared to stable marriages. The same data reveal that every year, one million people commit suicide all over the world. Let me repeat, one million people every year.
When society starts discarding the laws that God gave us, we are in for trouble. He knows what is best. He made us after all.
We have to avoid two extremes. The first is to pretend to be perfect by hiding, sometimes even from ourselves, our failings, and the other is to sentence ourselves to despair with an ‘I-can-never-make-it’ attitude.
In Jesus Christ, we can make it. We can break the chain of sin. And the good news is, that even when we fail and fall, we know we have Someone who will understand us and lifts us up. We do not have a Police-crook relationship with God. We have a Father-son relationship. “But if anyone should sin,” says the apostle John in his first letter, “we have, in the presence of the Father, Jesus Christ, an intercessor who is just.”
Many times we see it displayed in buildings under renovation: “Pardon our appearance, work in progress.” Perhaps we should hang a sign on the wall of our heart declaring, “Pardon my appearance, I am a work in progress!”
Perhaps a sinner I will remain, but at least Christianity helps me to be a happy sinner! Amen, said the wise man.
(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.