Now and then, we all have moments of gloom or darkness that prevent us from seeing clearly and appreciating the blessings or the people around us.
Years ago, I used to visit a priest friend from time to time when I was on a preaching tour in the United States doing parish missions, or when I was on a “St. Anne’s Evenings” tour. During one visit, I found him depressed and discouraged with life, as he had recently learned that he was going to have some toes cut off on his left foot because of the poor blood circulation caused by his diabetes.
I tried to encourage him by my words and recommendations, but he was so concerned about the operation and the disastrous consequences of this partial amputation that he seemed inconsolable. As I left, I told him that I would pray for him and his surgeon, as well as the people who would help him get back on his feet. On my return trip home, I couldn’t help think about how I would react if I ever had to face this kind of ordeal. Would I leave everything to God’s will?
I believe that our faith plays a great role in trials and an even greater role when someone is dying. I am pretty sure that most Christians would agree with this statement. However, when I speak of faith, I am referring to a faith that will continuously draw from the source of divine love through a time of intimate conversation with God. A faith that is nourished every day will inevitably grow unnoticed until it becomes a large tree where the birds of the sky can come and make their nests or rest in the shade of its leaves. A faith that is much more than the simple belief that God exists and that he sent his Son to give his life for us on the Cross.
I am talking about an active and courageous faith that must shine in the very environment in which God sends us every day. A deep and joyful faith that lets its conviction in God’s infinite love and mercy shine through, to the point of becoming a real fire that yearns to communicate itself to all. You can see that this kind of faith goes far beyond the faith mentioned in the media or in our typical conversations. The kind of faith I am talking about is similar to the faith and trust that young people who are in love feel towards each other: when a trial arises, they remain undaunted, because they rely on each other and always find a way out through mutual encouragement. This habitual way of reacting in the face of trials is the consequence of the trust and love they feel for each other.
My priest friend had lost his joy in his ordeal. For many months, he felt extremely sad and unhappy. And yet he was still doing his devotions, but his heart seemed to be absent during his conversation with God. And then one morning, some time after his amputation, he returned to the hospital for further tests. When he arrived in the waiting room, a poor stranger greeted him with a big smile and a glowing face! He was shocked to see the great serenity and joy radiating from him. And an even greater shock when he realized that this man was in a wheelchair with both legs cut off! Despite his unfortunate physical condition, he didn’t want to be pitied and didn’t seem to be disturbed in any way by his state of health. The simple fact of being alive and being able to share with those he met every day was enough to make him happy.
For my priest friend, it was the hour of grace, the hour of the visitation of the archangel who came to announce good news to him. What a lesson he received that day from this poor old man, ten times worse off than he was! It was, according to his own words, the definitive end of his long depression and the miraculous healing of his selfish heart, which spent an excessive amount of time looking backwards, rather than looking forwards.
Reflecting on this life lesson, I thanked God for the many blessings he has given us since our creation; for the support he gives us in times of trial and temptation; for the friends he puts on our paths to distract us from our self‐centredness, like that perfect stranger who had both his legs amputated, but whose radiant smile was an expression of the great spiritual joy and peace that inhabited him. May God inspire us to believe that with his grace, there will always be light at the end of the tunnel!