A friend asked, so Jack, with the sexual abuse scandal rocking the Church does she still express the love story that you always talk about? Are we all still invited to the wedding feast? What kind of a love story is this?
I reminded him of something G.K. Chesterton wrote. Responding to a letter in the newspaper asking what was wrong with the world he penned, “Dear Sir, what is wrong with the world? I am.” Sincerely, G.K. Chesterton. The Church is made up of sinners. Yet there is a difference between those who came into the body of Christ as sinners hoping to become saints and those who are parasites, predators and heretics who came into the Church to drain it of life and love.
So to answer the question, is it still a love story? My reply to him was, “Yes…and yes we are all invited to the wedding feast. But the invitation requires a response. So I’d ask you a question. You see it’s not whether others might turn down the marriage proposal; my question is ‘what do you say?’” The temptation of Satan is strong. I mean Adam and Eve, somehow in the midst of an earthly paradise, decided to walk out on the wedding celebration. Soon they were found hiding and wearing loincloths. Their innocence was gone replaced by lust, selfishness, hardness of heart… sin had entered the garden. It didn’t take long and Cain killed Abel.
Once sin entered the garden and Adam and Eve, and through them all of us, became in a sense “disconnected” from God’s original plan. You may remember that the tree of life was now off limits to Adam and Eve, guarded by angels. When Christ came, each of us regained access to the tree of life. The tree was now a crucifix and paraphrasing Saint Augustine “Jesus the Bridegroom climbed the marriage bed of the cross to give up His life for His Bride.” From His side pieced with a soldiers lance flowed water and blood. The water that flowed down his bruised and beaten body represents Baptism, the cleansing nuptial bath that readies us for the wedding feast. The blood streaming down, the Eucharist, offered to us so that we can become “one-flesh” with Him and consummate our union. All of us who heed the wedding invitation kneel at the foot of the cross, look up at the Bridegroom alongside of our Blessed Mother and say “yes”, and we are in a sense, impregnated with His Divine life and love.
Does it sound like wishful thinking?
I was 38 years old on September 20, 1995 and had been away from the Church for many years, as were my four younger brothers. I was a successful entrepreneur by then, married with three young children. Yet in spite of many gifts, an arrow had pierced my heart and left me a bloody mess. I found myself in a dark, lonely place. At one point, I remember getting on my knees and praying “God do you have a plan for me?” Reflecting back on this moment years later I had a vision of God the Father shaking His head…”Yes, of course I have a plan for you, but you haven’t been following it very well, still My answer is yes.” About that time I received a call from Orlando, Florida where Danny, the fourth brother, was dying of AIDS. After a long battle the disease was getting the best of him and he had stopped eating, drinking or responding. According to hospice, he had perhaps twenty-four hours left. My brothers and I rushed to O’Hare airport and caught a last minute flight to Orlando. As we walked into Danny’s home, I heard the hospice nurse say, “thank God his brothers are here, they made it in time.”
Danny was a passionate guy who loved life, loved to laugh and especially loved to be around family and friends. But just like his brothers, he was not perfect. He had first come to Orlando for drug rehab and during counseling, it came out that he had been the victim of repeated sexual assault by the Pastor of our Church. Later, encouraged by the drug counselor to explore his same-sex attractions, he entered into a homosexual lifestyle and now four years later was dying of AIDS.
At first when I touched his hand and spoke to him, he was unresponsive. But minutes later, all of us gathered around him, we looked down and saw the tendons on his neck begin to strain. A few more minutes of this battle to pull back from death’s grip and one eye-lid fluttered ever so slightly. I said “Danny, you can hear us, can’t you? Your brothers are here with you and we love you.” To our amazement his eyes opened and though he was looking in my direction I had the sense that he was focused on something up and behind me. Then he surprised us once again and seemed to say “Let’s Pray.” His mouth was very dry, he had not taken any liquids for three days, and I asked, “Danny, did you say lets pray?” “Pray to God” was his response, clear and strong. Those were his last words.
I want to keep this article from getting too long, so I will conclude by saying that as we knelt by our brother’s side and began to pray I experienced the presence of God come into the room in a way that I could best describe as palpable, thick, loving and strong. I came back into the Church. Still today I feel this same presence, though not every time or as strong as in the months immediately following my brothers death, when I approach the Eucharist. As I get close my knees weaken, my eyes turn moist, and I know that palpable presence that I first experienced at the side of my brother’s bed so many years before.
Danny was the first of us to come back into the Church some months before he died. He had received the Sacraments, brought by a loving faithful priest who said to my mom after visiting one day “There is a little Saint in the making in that room.”
Yes, some come into the body of Christ as sinners and hope to become saints. Danny was one of those.
Glory Be To God,