They say that life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take away our breath. This story may be one of those moments that take away your breath!

Christina was born poor. Living in a village just outside Rio de Janeiro, she just could not take her destitution any more and one day she slipped away from home. Her mother was heart broken. She knew that the big city will suck her daughter effortlessly. Her daughter had no way of earning money and she would be too stubborn to give up and return home. When pride meets hunger, we can do things that were before unthinkable.

So the mother decided to go into the big city and look for her. Before leaving, she stopped at one of these instant photograph booths and spent all her money taking pictures of herself.

Bars, hotels, nightclubs, any place with the reputation for street walkers or prostitutes… all in vain. Her daughter had disappeared. However the mother decided to leave a trail behind her. At each place she left her picture - taped on a bathroom mirror, tacked to a hotel bulletin board, fastened to a corner phone booth. And on the back of each photo she wrote a note.

It wasn't too long before both the money and the pictures ran out, and the mother had to go home. Tired and dejected.

It was a few weeks later that young Christina descended the hotel stairs. She was tired and her brown eyes spoke of pain and fear. Her laughter was broken. Her dream had become a nightmare.

As she reached the bottom of the stairs, she saw the picture in the lobby window… She could not believe her eyes. Choking with tears, she pulled out the small photo. Written on the back was this compelling invitation. "Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn't matter. Please come home."

She did.

This is what Christianity is all about. The woman looking for the lost drachma. The shepherd looking for the lost sheep. An early commentary on the famous parable of the lost sheep has Jesus telling the sheep when he finally finds her, "I love you more because you have made me suffer more".

This is the heart of Christianity. This is what the tenderness of God is all about.

There is no bigger suffering than sin. It may look different. But the stark truth is that the biggest ache in life is not a sickness in a bed or worry for lack of money but sin. Sin is not fun. It is torture. And that is why the Church is full of compassion for sinners. This is why the Church always speaks of forgiveness.

Karl Menninger, the famed psychiatrist, once said that if he could convince the patients in psychiatric hospitals that their sins were forgiven, 75 percent of them could walk out the next day!

If only people knew the beauty and power of Christianity, they would fill our Churches!

The guy had puppies for sale. They were adorable. "How much are you asking for them?" asked this tiny little boy. "Anywhere from $40 to $60", answered the store owner as he whistled for the dogs to come out of the kennel.

Out came Ko'a, followed by five teeny, tiny dogs. One puppy was lagging considerably behind. Immediately the little boy singled him and asked, "What's wrong with that little dog?" The man explained that the little puppy did not have a hip socket. It would always limp. It would always be lame.

The little boy reached out of his pocket all the money he had. Not much really. Just three dollars. He was all excited. "That is the puppy that I want to buy."

The store owner tried to dissuade the boy from getting that dog. "No, you don't want to buy that little dog. If you really want him, I'll just give him to you."

The little boy got quite upset. He looked straight into the store owner's eyes, pointing his finger, and said, "I don't want you to give him to me. That little dog is worth every bit as much as all the other dogs and I'll pay full price. In fact, I'll give you the three dollars now and one dollar every fifteen days until I have him paid for."

The store owner countered, "You really do not to want to buy this little dog. He is never going to be able to run and jump and play with you like the other puppies." To his surprise, the little boy reached down and rolled up his pant leg to reveal a badly twisted, crippled left leg supported by a big metal brace. The boy looked up at the store owner and softly replied, "Well, I don't run so well myself, and the little puppy will need someone who understands!"

We all need someone who understands. I have found someone who understands me. His name is Jesus. He can understand my brokenness because He himself was weak and broken one day, hanging on a cross.

He can understand us well…

(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.