The Living Jesus and the Monk’s Alphabet
Jesus had a way of looking at things that was very far from the ordinary, even contradictory to common sense.
All of his careful teachings and powerful examples served the purpose of helping us to see clearly, to understand,
and to discern as if our lives depended on it, because they do. Even beyond the grave.
All major and ancient world religions share the teaching that spiritual life starts with right seeing (vision), and that seeing clearly and correctly guarantees right action.
Action then leads to habit, habit to formation of character, and character to unfolding destiny.
When vision is right, all of these lead to righteousness.
Jesus saw with the eye of God the Father.
God’s eye became the lens through which he saw everything.
He grew in this wisdom and grace as he learned to do this, as we must.
Of the 30 gunshot victims we have received at St Luke Hospital in the first two weeks of April, one man was
brought in on Palm Sunday. He was shot in the head (it was a superficial wound) and then set on fire.
He had burns covering 60 % of his body.
It was obvious to us that he was a bandit.
For these cases, we no longer need discernment. It is quite clear.
“Love your enemy” would now have a very practical application.
As Pope Francis said on Palm Sunday, the gospel is not negotiable. You are either in or out.
“Love you enemy.”
Here it meant we must work to save his life, to relieve his pain.
He is human. He has a soul.
We did work hard to save him. I tried to humble my feelings of disdain for him.
We accepted looking at him through the lens of God’s eye, and not just as a bandit.
Jesus did the same, with his companions on Calvary, one on each side.
He is still alive, even though there is a maxim that his percentage of second and third degree burns (60%) plus his age (27) was his likelihood of dying (87%). His gunshot tipped this even higher.
It wasn’t long before we learned something of what happened to him.
A waring gang had tied three women in a shack and set it on fire.
He ran in bravely to rescue the women, and he succeeded in saving them.
As the saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished, Nor did his.
The results were before us.
Back to Jesus and his astute God eye. This situation showed us Jesus vision that the weeds and wheat grow together.
It must be this way, so nothing good is lost.
Every bandit may still have an instinct for goodness, a chance to be redeemed. This is the case for every sinner.
Of the two bandits crucified with Jesus, one still had a redemptive instinct for goodness.
The second bandit was not on Calvary as a decoration, or to center the cross of Jesus so there was symmetry.
He was there because some bandits have no such desire for redemption, right to the end.
That’s how life is.
Just as our outer eyes squint, penetrate and scan rapidly over what we are trying to understand, our inner eye must be trained to do the same.
It is called discernment.
Jesus’ eye chart is different from that of Snellen.
From the example above, you can that I still need glasses.
I helped the man, but with disdain.
I saw through God’s eye a little bit.
Enough to do the right thing.
Jesus is always trying to teach help us to see better, to cultivate careful and clear vision.
After applying mud and saliva to the eyes of a blind man Jesus asked, “can you see?”
He replied “I see people, but they look like trees.”
At least he, like us, was on the way to seeing.
A little more mud and saliva from the Savior, and an extra strong prayer, bring us along further.
Sorry to give a tragic examples, but in spite of Easter joy we still live in real time.
The headlines on Easter Morning, revealing the massacres in Sri Lanka, were enough to make your heart stop.
Many of the people whose lives ended so brutally were just in Church praying and celebrating the God of Life, or traveling to be with family.
The news rightly made Easter a very somber and sobering day.
The point is, there has to be an Easter message on the one hand that does not deny the candles, the choirs, the Easter eggs and powerful promises of God.
But the message must also consider the feelings and fate the many people in the world who are still on Golgotha,
even though the fate of death was sealed by the Resurrection of Jesus twenty centuries ago.
If the liturgies are too removed from life, religion starts to seem like a fairy tale.
(There are people who cling to this kind of religion to escape from the world.)
Religion is literally the ligament to re-tie heaven to earth (the word religion comes from the latin re-ligare).
Real life needs to find a real place at God’s real altar.
Sadly and also on Palm Sunday, thieves and bandits burned two very poor neighborhoods in Port au Prince, at the entrance of Wharf Jeremie, One is called Makaron and the other called, oddly, Tokyo.
The fires and the bullets have once again created hundreds of refugees in Port au Prince. Most are mothers who run with their children under their arms to safety.
No mattress, no sheets, or toothbrush or soap.
Wandering the streets and sleeping there.
Rainy season has just started. Rain at night is cold, even in the tropics.
Because of the violence, we could not go to the refugees for two days after Palm Sunday. But we managed to reach them last Wednesday, to see what happened with our own eyes. Wednesday of Holy Week in Catholicism is called “Spy Wednesday,” in reference to Judas being on the lookout as to the best place and time to betray Jesus. We were spying too, but with God’s eye.
We brought gauze, betadine and bandages in abundance to another hospital in the area, which called for help because of all their volume of gunshot patients.
We were also bringing sheets, towels, and blankets as a first help for the refugees, at least to make bedding. We followed this with the delivery of 17 water trucks of 3,000 gallons each. We are working now to find a way to buy wood and aluminum roofing to get them out from under the rain.
While we were there, gunfire resumed.
Two people were shot right in front of us, one in the chest (a humble merchant) and another in the leg (another bandit).
The unredeemed me could not help wishing it was the other way around.
We had to stablize them on the street (control of bleeding, IV lines and oxygen) and then run them in my truck to surgery. As we were leaving, in the panic, a three year old was run over by a motorcycle and his face was torn wide open. So off he would go with us, too, with his mom, who was absolutely beside herself.
While we were nearly finished stabalizing these victims, the bullets that had been flying were receding to another area, and suddenly two ten year old girls appeared, flying hand made kites. The said to me, “look how high we got them! Come and take the string and feel the tug!”
I thought to myself “this is surreal, like the twilight zone.”
But since we were nearly ready to leave, and Raphael could easily finish, I thought. “I would like to try the kite out.”
The kite soared in the heavens. The girls giggled and laughed. I remembered how Jesus looked at such children. The kingdom of heaven is made of children like these. If earth is grim, raise your eyes, and try to touch the heavens, even if with a kite. This is the kind of spirit that get’s you to heaven. That’s how God sees it. This was their therapy and hope, to enjoy every little bit of life that you can.
For the many weeks following Easter, we will hear the Acts of the Apostles at mass. The stories show us that for the first apostles, even though Jesus was delivered from death, their problems were just starting. Those of us still on earth, who believe in Him, now must face all the challenges He faced, and in the same Spirit.
The glory of Easter does not spare us, but strengthen us.
I will be 40 years a priest next month. and I am probably one of the last generations of Passionists that learned the “monk’s alphabet”. We learned it in the novitiate. It is a string of sayings, from A to Z, that teach disciples of Jesus the right attitudes that you need to cultivate in your heart to “see” in the best way.
Here, for example, is the letter “I”.
In every action, be sure you act with pure intention, because God is squinting, scanning and looking through your heart to see if you are true.
The whole time we are looking at the world through God’s eye, God is looking at us hoping that, when life and death are before us, openly or sublty, we will choose life.
For those of us who are believer’s, let’s marry our altars to our streets. This is not to banalize the altar, but to elevate the street.
For all people of good will, of any or no professed faith, let’s help and comfort those whose lives keep them nailed to Good Friday, those for whom “alleluia” is lost in groans and sorrow and loss.
Let’s defy the ways of the world by speaking only truth, showing such solidarity that we leave no one behind, and focusing and refocusing on a deep and broad dream for the whole human family that we can bring about, that we must bring about, with God’s help.
Thank you for our support for our work. It is essential.
Happy Easter, many blessings to you and your families,
and sincere thanks!
Fr Richard Frechette CP DO
Port au Prince
April 23, 2019