By Father Joseph Breighner
It was every parent’s worst nightmare. Their teenage daughter had attempted suicide, and now the doctors and specialists at the hospital were working hard to resuscitate the girl. Finally, one of the doctors turned to the parents and said: “I’m sorry. We can’t do any more. Your daughter is dead.”
The mother very simply asked: “Can I just hold her?”
The mother held her daughter to herself, and, suddenly, the girl’s heart started to beat again. The emergency care nurses said they had never seen anything like this before. The doctors agreed that they had never seen anything like it.
Love is stronger than death. We don’t die when our physical bodies die.
Yes, there were many “dark” parts of the story that led to this moment of the suicide attempt. I choose not to go into them here. As I’ve said so often, in this column and during retreats, we are conditioned by the media to focus on what’s wrong. I choose to focus on what’s right.
In life, we have the hope of the triumph of right over wrong, of justice over injustice. In this humble world of time and space, that doesn’t always happen. There can be no more tragic example of injustice, of evil destroying good, than in the life of Jesus himself. There was an individual who only preached love, who only offered hope, who worked miracles of healing, who even raised the dead, and found himself crucified. That was the ultimate triumph of good over evil, of justice over injustice, of love over death.
I’ve shared my favorite quote many times before, a quote I think I first saw in a high school literature book. It read simply: “Two men looked out through prison bars. One saw mud. The other stars.”
Injustice, death, destruction rivet our attention. We look at the mud and we are pulled into it.
Or we can raise our eyes and look at the stars – at eternity, at God. And life looks different from that perspective, very different. There the wrongs are righted. There injustices are reversed. There love conquers evil forever.
There is no lack of cruelties and injustices in this world. A man who worked for Baltimore-based Catholic Relief Services would call his mother on his cell phone from some of the trouble spots in Africa. He described seeing hundreds of body parts floating past him from some of the scenes of slaughter years ago in Rwanda. Putting his own life in great danger, he still represented another vision of life, a vision of love in the face of absolute horror. Catholic Relief Services does minister to the poorest of the poor in all parts of the world.
You and I have the same power that Jesus had – the power of love. When our hearts beat with love we can restart someone else’s heart. We can dare to love ourselves and forgive ourselves for our own dark moments of anger and despair. We can even dare to love our enemies as Jesus did. That kind of love sets us free.
So in our dark moments we dare to look up to the stars of love that pierce the darkness of the night. Then, in our moments of deepest awareness, we dare to be love to each other.
Copyright © Sept. 21, 2012 CatholicReview.org