This is my most favorite story. It comes from the desert fathers, those early Christians who left everything and went to live with HIM in the deserts of Syria and Egypt.
John the Dwarf was a very saintly Abba. He was dying and so he called his disciples and told them this story :
“Once there was a prostitute. She had been a wanton woman for many, many years. One day, a handsome young lord was passing by and as soon as he saw her, he fell deeply in love with her. Love at first sight. Wanting to marry her, he proposed to her. Amazed, she replied, “Are you serious? Do you not know who I am?” But the young nobleman insisted. “Yes, I know who you are, but I love you deeply. I cannot live without you, and I want to marry you.” He was crazy about her. “But I am unclean,” she said.
“Don’t worry, my love will cleanse you,” he persisted.
The woman could hardly believe her good fortune! How could anyone possibly love her? She was filthy, she had slept with many men… And this man was rich, young, handsome. She could hardly believe her luck. This was a godsend blessing. It took her a long time to decide but eventually she agreed, and they were wed. A sumptuous marriage. He built for themselves a beautiful mansion and gave her all she could ever desire. Indeed, he would try to anticipate her needs. He cherished her dearly. Excessively.
But the men of the village resented this marriage. They had lost a woman whom they had been able to enjoy whenever it suited them. They wanted their ‘fun’ back. “We must win her back, ” they argued. “And we shall do it. It would not be that difficult. After all, this woman was and is still a prostitute, even though she is married. Her body, her heart, her passions are just as carnal as ever…” So they agreed to go and seduce her back into her former life. They did not dare go through the main door.
They went to the back door and began whistling for her as they used to do before when they wanted to use her.
The woman heard them. And sure enough she felt torn apart inside. For it was true what the village men thought about her – her passions, her cravings, her yearnings were still as easily aroused as ever. But, on the other hand, how could she forget all that her husband had done for her? He had saved her. He had given her back her dignity as a woman. He had freed her. A mortal tug-of-war raged within her …. between passion and gratitude. “What can I to do?”, she kept saying emotionally to herself.
There was only one safe route. And this is what she did.
She rushed to the bedroom where her husband was. She fell on him and started begging him to embrace her and cuddle her close. “Hold me, hold me tight,” she kept insisting, “love me, please love me, lest I betray you!”
And the Abba concluded : “My sons, this is the parable of our lives. The prostitute is ourselves, who have often betrayed God and adulterated with other things not-God. But one day a rich, handsome, young man from Nazareth met us. Yes, his name is Jesus Christ. He fell in love with us and wished to marry us. Love at first sight. He knew us. He knew our filth and yet he wished to live an adventure of love and intimacy with us.
He is so crazy! Obviously the devils – the men of the village – try their very best to bring us out of our home. They want to exploit us. To maul us. And there is only one way not to succumb and return to our own vomit.
Yes, my sons, remember, only ONE way. You also, like the once-prostitute-now-wife must run and fall on Him and beg Him frantically to hug you and not let you go. And you know what? He will do it willingly, very willingly.”
Yes, we are loved that much. So much!
(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.