By Brother Bernie Spitzley SVD
I congratulate all who celebrate anniversary as priests and all of who celebrate the anniversary of consecrated life in vows! As you know, our brother Jesus told stories and in each story there was a message. So I will tell a story and hope there is a message for us.
In Jamaica, a little boy named Raheem was swimming in the Yallahs pond. Without a sound, a crocodile slipped into the pond and made a direct path toward the unsuspecting boy. His father, who was on the shore, saw what was happening and called out to him, “Raheem, Raheem, come quickly. Swim to the deck.”
The boy did just that, and the father, with stretched out hands, kept calling him to swim faster and faster. Just when he grabbed the boy’s arms, the crocodile, with powerful jaws, bit down on the boy’s legs. Now a tremendous tug-of-war took place.
The father—with his fingernails in the boy’s forearms—pulling forward, and the crocodile—with razor sharp teeth pulling him back. Suddenly, a farmer who heard the boy screaming arrived, and with one shot, he killed the crocodile whose jaws opened upon the impact of the bullet.
The father gathered the boy and off they went to Princess Margaret Hospital. After numerous surgeries and dedicated care, the young boy’s legs were repaired and he was able to walk again. Three months later, the news team from TV Ja arrived to retell the story. The interview ended with the reporter asking to get a close up of the scars on Raheem’s legs.
The reporter said, “Look where the crocodile tore the muscles from the bone, but now he is healed. However, he will have to live the rest of his life with those horrible scars from that day he swam in the Yallahs pond.”
As the camera crew was leaving, the young boy said, “But look, look at these scars, on my arms. See, Daddy never let go!” Daddy never let go.
My friends, I’m sure in this jubilee year, you have reflected on the various ponds in which you have served—the ministries and, yes, the numerous tug-of-wars that you have experienced.
I invite you to remember those scars that we all have, the times in which daddy –Abba Father—never let go! We need to reassure each other of the constant love that the Father has for us. And we need to go out, as Pope Francis has challenged us, to wake up the world! Yes, we must wake up the world!
In a world of iPhones, iPads, I this and that, of selfies, where everything is about me—we need to wake up the world with the joy we find in living the vow of obedience. Where with our community, we discern God’s will and do the Father’s will, not my personal desires or wishes.
In a world where sex sells, of human trafficking, of using and abusing others, we need to wake up the world with the joy we find in the vow of celibacy. Where because of our relationship with the Father, we see others as brothers and sisters, not as objects but as others with whom we relate in loving, right relationships.
In a world of bling, big cars, bigger houses, two or three bank accounts, we need to wake up the world with the joy we find in the vow of poverty. Where with our relationship with the Father we can live life to the fullest by living a simple life style.
In a world of hatred, suspicion, intolerance for anyone different than us and yes, violence, even decapitations, we, the sons and daughters of Arnold Janssen, whose very DNA is interculturality, need to wake up the world with the joy we find in living together as brothers and sisters from various nations, languages and cultures, celebrating the unity that we share in our diversity.
In a world of military buildup, of crossing borders to kill others, of executing our own citizens and yes, even killing people before they are born, we need to wake up the world with the joy we find in living the Gospel of Life. Of celebrating and protecting ALL life and that includes the environment!
Yes my friends, the world needs us. We MUST go forth and wake up the world! So I invite you to come forward and renew your vows.
Let us do so not with a proud or haughty heart because we have 25, 40, 50, 60, 65, 70, or 75 years of experience. Nor shall we do it with fear and trepidation as we face the unknown. Rather let us come forward, aware of what our God has done, is doing and will continue to do through us—because Daddy never let go. Daddy never lets go.
Divine Word Brother Bernie Spitzley, who celebrates 40 years as a religious, delivered this reflection at the 2015 Jubilee Mass on July 18. Based in Jamaica, he leads Scripture sharing through Bethany Group, a Bible-sharing group in Kingston. He also collaborates with Food for the Poor to provide goods and services for the marginalized and has built more than 3,000 houses for the economically disenfranchised.