When I was a parish priest in a certain country parish, one of the children of the parish family — some nine years old – was suffering in a most horrific way. I’ll spare you the details of his suffering which continued for very many years. His doctors said that he should be continuously screaming in pain.
I would go over to their house to bring Jesus in Holy Communion. The whole family would be there. We would all talk for a bit as a lead up to him receiving Jesus. He was always eager to learn more about Jesus. Always.
When it was time to begin the short rite for Holy Communion outside of Mass, he would instantly stand up, now totally oblivious to all other things, hands folded, in wrapt attention before our Lord and Savior, who was very much known by this little boy to be a close Friend.
Afterwards, with the whole family — a large family! — gathered in the living room around the television, the young fellow would want to compete with me on some sort of car racing video game by way of some gadgets hooked up to a gadget hooked up to their television. I never did, since I know nothing about such things. Instead, his older brothers would pitch in and have a great time of it, all for my benefit, it seems, as they were intent on getting me up to speed, as it were, on the Who’s Who of the car racing world. And they knew everything, up to the minute, of racing right around the world.
Because of the almost unlimited expenses of health care interventions on his behalf, I wanted to have a fund-raiser in the parish. This went extraordinarly well, reaching well into six figures, and then well beyond that. We had a prayer written up on the raffle cards that everyone sold to everyone far beyond the territory of the parish by about 500 miles in every which direction. The prizes included a semi-automatic browning 12 guage shotgun. Yikes!
It soon became an ecumenical project simply because so very many non-Catholics were pitching in to make it a project of their local communities, again, even from more than a 1000 miles away.
This brought some trouble, which our Lord permitted, it seems to me, to instruct a few people of the reality of Jesus among us.
The freakish atheist groups started harrassing the little guy, saying that because of suffering, he should just spit in the face of Jesus and be done with religion. Some would even visit the family home to convince him at any cost to give up on religion. They were, of course, working out problems in their own lives by way of this little boy. Scarey, huh?
And then everyone would witness what always happens when suffering is conjoined with fidelity, fidelity, fidelity, with good friendship with Jesus. When these knuckleheads would come over, they would be greeted politely. They would start into their impassioned pleas. With some in took only thirty seconds. Others were allowed to go on for a minute or two, but then it would happen.
The little fellow would give them a response, going to the heart of their personal problems, right to the core of their beings, baring their souls for all, particularly for themselves to see, starkly, surely for the very first time. And with only a few words.
They would then leave, jaws dropped, dumb-founded, shaken, perhaps enough to get them to be on their way to heaven.
Fidelity amidst suffering — looking to Jesus instead of to ourselves – brings one to this awareness of the plight of others, for suffering sets priorities straight, casting off what is unimportant and pointing us right to heaven, to Jesus. We see how bad a situation original sin has cast us, and we thank Jesus all the more, with a rejoicing humble thanksgiving, for reaching into this world to get us, taking on what we deserve, death, having the right in justice, then, to have mercy on us, to have us die to ourselves to live for Him, to have us not just carry the the consequences of original sin as our cross (weakness of will and mind, emotions all over the place, sickness and death), but to have the capacity, the grace, to look to Him, to Jesus, following Him, in close friendship with Him.
When this little fellow and I were talking after Holy Communion, he quietly blurted out the sentence which you can read in the above image:
“JESUS IS HELPING ME TO CARRY THE CROSS
BECAUSE HE CARRIED IT ALL THE WAY.
TWO THUMBS UP
FOR CARRYING THE CROSS WITH JESUS.”
Now, I bid you, learn something from this little, suffering boy. What do you notice about the picture he drew? For instance:
- Jesus is a boy his own age.
- Jesus’ body is a cross.
- Jesus is very happy!
- Jesus is being encouraging in such a friendly way, giving a two thumbs up.
- Jesus is most loving, with such a Heart for us, His Sacred Heart.
- It is a scene of Calvary, with three crosses, one for someone who accepted Jesus on the cross, one for the other who did not. Yikes!
This image was then put on T-Shirts of all sizes. Yikes! again!
Just to say: Let’s learn from this little boy. Children have enormous capactity to know Jesus. We would do well to take their great example, but also encouraging them in every way to know about Jesus. Jesus is not “meaningless” to children. He is instantly their best Friend.
Jesus is to be our best Friend. Do we think we’re unworthy? Or that suffering is a punishment? Wrong! Suffering is the consequence of original sin, but Jesus took all that on to have the right to invite us to heaven. Love God and neighbor now, and then know rejoicing with no suffering in heaven. But that rejoicing begins even in the midst of great suffering, for we can so much the better look to Jesus and recognize, even overwhelmingly, His great, most tender love for us:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3,16-17).