One night, a priest was about to sleep when he smelled a terrible stench coming from outside his window. His priestly vestment was hanging just beside the window and he didn’t want it to catch the stench. Before he closed the window, he looked outside and saw a man lying down just beside his wall. The man looked like he was about to die. Some parts of his body was already rotting and even had maggots. He closed his window and sat down. He was thinking about what to do. Should he go outside and tend to the dying man or just wait until morning when other people could help him? After all, the smell was unbearable.
While he was sitting down on his bed, he heard a little girl’s voice coming from outside his window. He looked through the window and saw the little girl rolling the dying man into her arms. Embracing the dying man, she said, “Jesus, my Jesus, welcome into my home.”
Tears flowed through the priest’s eyes as he went back to the side of his bed and sat down. Sitting down, he prayed for God’s forgiveness and for God to use him as His instrument of love like how He used the little girl. When he was about to stand up and go outside to help the man and the little girl, he heard a knock on his door. There was the little girl, carrying the man on her shoulders. (I still don’t know how she was able to carry the man.) The little girl said, “Father, please bless this man for he is dying.” The priest prayed the last rites and the man breathed his last.
That little girl was the young Saint Teresa of Calcutta.
For the past few weeks, my prayers had been dry. Sure, I read the scriptures, attended mass, kept my regular prayer time, and attended our community’s services. I knew that in the depths of my heart and soul, I loved God. But, there was still something missing.
The story of Saint Teresa reminded me of what was missing. I wasn’t loving others, especially the least. My love stopped at my family, friends, and fellow servants in our community. But, I wasn’t reaching out to the broken and the desperate.
There is a paragraph in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) that teach us how Jesus wants us to pray (and how He wants us to follow Him):
CCC Paragraph 2602: Jesus often draws apart to pray in solitude, on a mountain, preferably at night. He includes all men in his prayer, for he has taken on humanity in his incarnation, and he offers them to the Father when he offers himself. Jesus, the Word who has become flesh, shares by his human prayer in all that "his brethren" experience; he sympathizes with their weaknesses in order to free them. It was for this that the Father sent him. His words and works are the visible manifestation of his prayer in secret.
Jesus wants us to love the Father who is invisible by loving the people who are visible. He wants us to manifest our prayers and our love for God through our love for our neighbors.
God did not call us just to believe and to hear His word. He wants us to love others. He did not call us to become believers, instead He called us to become disciples. To completely followed in His footsteps.
When Jesus came down from heaven, He did not just teach people how to worship God. He healed the sick. He comforted those who were broken and desperate. He forgave sinners. And like Him, He also wants us to act for the least. To feed them. To comfort them. To set them free from their bondages (whether of sin, of poverty, of brokenness).
Like what was prophesied in Isaiah and He later on fulfilled, He wants us to do the same:
“The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; He has sent me to bring good news to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God; to comfort all who mourn; to place on those who mourn in Zion a diadem instead of ashes, to give them oil of gladness instead of mourning, a glorious mantle instead of a faint spirit.”
He even reminded us what the two greatest commandments are: to love God and to love our neighbors. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, it wasn’t the priest or the levite who helped the man who was robbed. The priest and the levite who supposedly understood the scriptures. The priest and levite who were “clean” under the Mosaic law. But, it was the Samaritan, an unclean man, who was neighbor to the robbed man. It was the Samaritan who loved God by loving others.
And that is not only the secret to prayer. It’s also the secret to happiness.
Happiness is not only a state of mind. It’s also a perspective. When we focus too much on ourselves, we will only see our own problems. Helping others gives us a different perspective. Not only does it allow us to live outward-focused lives, it also allows us to see how blessed we truly are.
Right now, you may be feeling down. Or your prayers may be feeling dry. Maybe it’s time to look beyond yourself, your needs, and your own happiness, and serve your neighbors — especially the least.
P.S. Is your heart burning after reading this post? I hope it does. But, let’s not stop there. Let’s make a concrete plan to helping the least. I have made mine (and I hope to take action this weekend). How about you?