|But she said: Yea, Lord; for the whelps also eat of the crumbs that fall |
from the table of their masters. -Matthew 15:27
Setting out from the safety and the solace of the pack, the dog is in search of something different. More individual freedoms? A break from traditional authority? Another pack member hurt her, deeply, long ago? A disagreement over pack law? Perhaps the dog just doesn't think the pack can help her anymore. It matters not - this dog is her own master now.
She heard the howls of merriment in the distance. Other dogs, liberated dogs, chasing their tails in delight, cast long shadows of revelry across the fires lighting the pack's council. How could she not be entranced by them? The pack leaders scoffed in dismay, cleaving instead to their customs.
She had enough of them. Here was her chance. Her chance. To be what she wanted to be. To throw off the proverbial shackles of the pack. She was her own master now.
Having set off, and now winding through the woods, through the dark, the light of the pack grew dimmer and dimmer, until it faded into the distance. Memories of the pack's ways flitted through her mind, but she dismissed them - that was her old life, and now she is free.
She started to run. To join the other dogs in their merry-making. But where were they? Where were the bonfires, the feasting, the pleasures she imagined would go hand-in-hand with this new-found liberty? For all around her, it was dark. The fire had faded behind the trees, the wisps of the embers just visible in the distance above the ever-darkening treeline.
She heard whimpering not far off. Curious, she trotted through the thickets to see a voice she thought she recognized.
She was greeted by a snarl, a bite, a grinding and a showing of teeth. Behind the long, white fangs, an ethereal growl echoed forth, filling the cool night sky with wrath.
Startled, the dog pulled away. What has happened here, she thought in panic. Fleeing, she turned around - but the snarling dog did not pursue. She moved in closer, peering through the leaves, keeping her distance to remain hidden from the anger she had just seen. The snarling dog had returned to its own whimpering, licking at its back leg.
A bolt of lightning lit the sky. For the most fleeting moment, she saw a large, silver claw gripping the snarling beast's hind leg, clamping mercilessly down upon its leg, pinning it, trapping it here - alone. The wounded animal saw her, too, in the flash - and charged, gnashing, vicious.
The chain reached its apex and snapped it back with a howl. This dog was wounded, cornered - and trapped. The slow, somber whimpers grew longer, changing almost imperceptibly into groans of anguish and despair. The dog fled, scared.
She stopped. All around her, from every direction, came the soft whimpers of pain and sorrow, interspersed with sharp, dreadful howls of anguish. Alone in the dark, she stood still. But she was free.
In her freedom, she was also alone. And it was getting darker, colder.
She was confused. Where was the dancing, where was the liberty she so desperately longed for? Where was the fun?
Continuing to make her way - yes, her very own way, for she was her own master now - her path wound, first this way, then that way. Up a hill, and back down, never retracing her steps. She rounded a corner, through a small grove of bushes, smelling food nearby, and hearing the trickling of water....
Searing, white-hot pain gripped her. It was too dark to see from where it came. She tried to run, but was snapped back, held in place by an unseen force. Unable to move, unable to escape, she was in pain. She was in anguish. She howled in agony. She paced, panted, howled again.
Nobody came. She was alone.
The pain was unbearable. She couldn't see. Her howls and cries turned into whimpers and moans as the pain enveloped her every sense and thought. Unable to see clearly in the dark, unable to feel beyond the acute wretchedness of her captivity, she began to change. She was hungry. She thirsted. Her stomach and throat cried out. Her body became numb. She became angry. She became bitter. She seethed.
She was alone.
Her mind became poisoned by the darkness. This was the fault of the pack, her reeling mind concluded. THEY wouldn't change. THEY were too rigid. THEY never had fun. THEY made her leave.
In her pain and bitterness, she festered. She fermented, changing the fruits of pain and darkness into the wine of bitterness and despair. She was cold. She was weary. She was hurt. She stopped counting the hours. She twisted herself as the darkness enveloped her every being. She snarled back at other dogs who were free like she was - and they fled. She heard them, too, pierce the cold night sky with their cries.
Then, she saw something different.
|And Jesus answering, said to them: |
They that are whole, need not the physician:
but they that are sick.
I came not to call the just,
but sinners to penance. -Luke 5:31-32
The words issued confidently, softly, sweetly, like nothing she had ever heard. She paused to listen closer, with a faint growl in her belly that she could not, after all that had transpired, control any longer.
"Easy, girl. It's OK. I am here to help."
He leaned in. She reacted. His hand escaped the fangs by fractions of an inch. The growl intensified.
"It's OK. I am here to help. I will not judge you. I will not condemn you. But look, you're hurt."
She knew it. Deep, deep down, she knew she was hurt. Her existence was pain. Long ago, stirring deeply from within the wellspring of her mind, she remembered a time when it was not always so - when her existence was more than darkness, pain, and despair.
But she still did not see the trap.
"It's OK. Shhhhh......." He whispered, leaned in, hand outstretched, vulnerable.
Her instincts, cultivated in captivity, told her to bite, and rip, and tear. Her heart, though, sent a different message: be still. So she stood still.
"You're hurt. See? Right there, your trapped. Something is gripping your leg, causing you all of the pain you are feeling."
Slowly, warily, she turned.
The sight rocked her, shook her to her core.
There it was - the thing that caused her this agony. A trap, latched on, destroying her body, gripping her to this spot, leaving her alone in the darkness and the cold. Though she was free, her freedom brought her to this trap. She saw it pinning her down, leaving her to run painful circles around a single point, the tip of which was scarcely visible, and the root of which plunged into the fiery depths of earth.
She howled, and wept bitterly.
"Let me help you with that," said the stranger, calmly and warmly. "See, I bring you healing."
He embraced her. He took off the shackle. She clung to him, thankful. He radiated a peace and warmth that she could not explain. In his arms, she felt safe. She was comforted. She knew it was going to be OK.
|"Easy, girl. It's OK. I am here to help you, |
and to bring you healing."
He turned a corner in the darkness, and there was the warm, familiar fire of the pack. They were safe together. She noticed a welcoming spirit, a peace in their midst she had neglected before. She knew this was home. He set her down. She still could not put any weight on her leg - it was shredded. It needed time, tenderness, and more healing. It was a brutal, nasty injury inflicted by her unseen enemy. But now, she was safe, home where she truly belonged, and healing could begin anew.
Our Papa Francesco is a wonderful gift from the Holy Spirit.
People are so far gone to sin in the West that they just need to be held, not lectured to, and told that it's gonna be OK. Like wounded, cornered dogs, their pain of sin causes them to lash out in the darkness. Only after healing, only after being embraced and loved and carried away from the pain and bitterness can they open up enough, soften their hearts if you will, to understand their loneliness. Only when the light shines on their wounds can they see what is making them suffer. THEN they can truly get to the root of it, the specific sins, and the why behind Church teachings on sin and suffering.
Pope Francis sees all of the pain, and sees the backlash toward Christians by the wounded. Like a dog caught in a bear trap, snarling at the rescuer because of all of the pain, are those who are turned away from God and his Church in the world today. But in the dark, they don't see the trap. Enter Pope Francis, saying in his soothing voice, "It's gonna be OK. Calm down, doggie. Good girl. I'm here to help you and to heal you. Let's shine some light on that trap and see what we can do. OK?"
It's wonderful, and a time for real joy in the Holy Spirit, in a God who has NOT abandoned the world, even if it's abandoned Him.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth thy Spirit, Lord, and renew the face of the earth. Amen.