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Marist Bulletin - Number 64


Easter 2003

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Seán D. Sammon, FMS

There once was a young man who aspired to great holiness. He worked hard to achieve it, and eventually went to report to his Rabbi.
“Rabbi,” he announced, “I think I have achieved sanctity.”
“What makes you think that?” asked the Rabbi.
The young man replied, “I have been practicing virtue and discipline for some time now, and have grown quite proficient at both. From sunrise to sunset, I take neither food nor water. During the day, I do all kinds of hard work for others and never expect to be thanked. If I have temptations of the flesh, I roll in the snow or the thorn bushes until they go away, and then at night, before bed, I practice the ancient monastic discipline and administer lashes to my bare back. I have disciplined myself to be holy.”
The Rabbi was silent for some time. Eventually, he took the young man by the arm and led him to a window in his study. The Rabbi pointed to an old horse in the field; it was being led away by its owner.
“I have been observing that horse for some time,” began the Rabbi, “and have noticed that it does not get fed or watered from morning to night. All day long it has to do work for people, and it never gets thanked. I often see it rolling around in the snow or bushes, as horses are prone to do, and frequently I observe that its owner whips it. But, I ask you: is that a saint or a horse?”
And the morale of the story? To be a saint has more to do with having a spirit of gratitude than it does with any pious practice. To be a saint means respecting the gift of God’s unconditional love rather than acting as if sanctity is achieved by climbing some ladder of virtues.
Easter is one of those feasts that confounds the rational. Jesus rose from the dead! Who could believe it? Many in his day did not, and today we, too, have our skeptics. But a powerful aspect of our faith is its ability to amaze us, surprise us, and touch both our hearts and our minds.
Take for example God’s unconditional love for each of us. You and I can do nothing to earn God’s love; it is given freely. Think about times in your own life when you have been in love. Don’t you want what’s best for the person you love, you are preoccupied with them, cannot have enough time with them, feel a bit out of sorts when you are not with them. If human love mirrors divine love, how much more must we be in the mind and heart of God.
Marcellin understood this aspect of our faith well, as did Mary. Two of the three aspects of his spirituality are the practice of the presence of God, and reliance on Mary and her protection. His spirituality was incarnational, Marial, and transparent.
So, as we celebrate the rising of the Lord Jesus today, let us—unlike the young man in our story—allow ourselves to be amazed, surprised at the extraordinary things that God is doing in our midst. And let us pledge ourselves not just to admire Jesus, but to imitate him, too. And for us, that means proclaiming God’s Good News to poor children and young people. They are easy to find today in every society and culture, every nation and part of our world.
The young man in our story had a lot to learn. He thought it all depended upon him. He forgot that Jesus came as a suffering servant and not a conquering king. We do well to remember that the creature in the field of whom the Rabbi spoke was a horse and not a saint. But that stands to reason. After all, being saints has more to do with a spirit of gratitude than with any pious practice.
A blessed and happy Easter.

Rome, April 2003

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