St. Lorenzo Ruiz

28 September 2006: St. Lorenzo Ruiz and companions
Ecclesiastes 1, 2-11; Psalm 90; Luke 9. 7-9

The book of Ecclesiastes in the first reading declares that all things are vanity. If everything passes, then what stays? If everything dies, then what is eternal? If we look at the lives of the saints, they lived in the horizon of what is stable and eternal. Lorenzo Ruiz said, “Had I a thousand lives, I shall give them all to God.” Earlier, Teresa of Avila calmed the troubled heart, “Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing affright you. All things are passing. God only is changeless. He who has God wants nothing. God alone suffices.”

Everything then moves towards something or someone. We too are pilgrims on a journey. Our questions illustrate our movement: Where am I headed? What is the direction of my life? Where will I be happy? Will I meet the person who is right for me? Each one of us walks and struggles with our own destiny alone. Once in our lives --- to some, even until now --- we have trekked the road that everyone has trod. We choose the road our parents and our friends have chosen --- the tried and tested course. Lorenzo was a family man, taking care of his wife, two boys and a daughter in the Chinese district of Binondo, Manila. His life was like all others. Until he was suddenly accused of a crime he didn’t commit. To avoid arrest, he joined the Dominican missionaries to Japan. This sudden turn of events, this bend at the crossroad of life, had brought Lorenzo and his companions to their death. We too find ourselves at crossroads. When we have made our decisions, we find ourselves blazing our own trails, taking our own chances, running risks, getting hurt and beaten up and rejected, and surviving defeats. For Lorenzo and his companions, it was a decision towards martyrdom. But the same question remains: why take your chances?

Francois Mauriac wrote the foreword in a bestselling book entitled, Night, by Elie Weisel, a Jew who records the terrifying death of his family, taken from Sighet, Transylvania to Auschwitz concentration camp and then to Buchenwald. Francois met Elie, a journalist, who requested an interview with him. The two warmed up with each other and Elie related his story. Francois wrote this:

“And I, who believed that God is love, what answer was there to give my young interlocutor whose dark eyes still held the reflection of the angelic sadness that had appeared one day on the face of a hanged child? What did I say to him? Did I speak to him of that other Jew, this crucified brother who perhaps resembled him and whose cross has conquered the world? Did I explain to him that what had been a stumbling block for his faith had become a cornerstone for mine? And that the connection between the cross and human suffering remains, in my view, the key to the unfathomable mystery in which the faith of his childhood was lost? And yet, Zion has risen up again out of the crematoria and slaughterhouses. The Jewish nation has been resurrected from among the thousands of dead. It is they who have given it new life. We do not know the worth of one single drop of blood, one single tear. All is grace. If the Almighty is the Almighty, the last word for each of us belongs to Him. That is what I should have said to the Jewish child. But all I could do was embrace him and weep.”

Indeed no one knows the worth of Lorenzo’s blood and tears, only the Almighty, in the view of eternity. No one knows the worth of our blood and tears shed for those whom we love and suffer for. And so, let us look at the life of Lorenzo and his companions in the past, and then examine our lives in the present, and ask the same question: If you were given a thousand lives, will you give it all back to God? But my suggestion contains a context. Pop the question when faced with your unmet desires, your forgotten dreams, and your deepest regrets. Will you trade your life now for someone more popular, famous and rich? If given a thousand lives, will you choose the same person to love and spend the rest of your life? Will you give your life to what passes or to what is enduring and changeless? Will you offer them all to God? And if not to God, to whom? What gives your life some worth?


evelyn said...

I find your suggestion confusing. What advantage can there be in contemplating that which I cannot have?

Jessel Gerard said...

Simple: when one is able to name and accept the things which one cannot have, then one doesn't dream about it anymore, and begins to work for what is realistic and workable.

Second, the unreachable dreams and regrets provide a background for a decision. The hypothetical question of being granted several lives where one is able to realize his or her dreams, e.g. being rich or famous or popular, can help one see whether God becomes one's priority. Many people who are rich or famous or popular have abandoned God because they don't need God; what gives their life worth are their name, their popularity, or their wealth. The point is also simple: In the OT, Job asked the same question when all his riches and his family were stripped off him. He said, the Lord has giveth and taken away, Blessed be the Lord! Will you praise him too if all your family dies and you become destitute at the same time as Job experienced? Lorenzo said he will.