THE LEGEND OF HELIOPHER

Once upon a time there was a people that was lost in a great, dark forest. The trees stood so close together that the light of the sun could not penetrate the thickly entwined branches. There were also numerous wild animals which fell upon the people, especially the children when they wandered too far from their parents while they were playing. So everyone lived in constant fear of death and destruction, and a hopeless despair took hold of the hearts of the folk.

Continuous darkness had strangled all the light in their hearts. They could not love one another any more. They even hated and murdered one another in their rage. Yet they were forced to remain together, for it was impossible for any single man to defend himself against the attacks of the wild beasts. They had lost all hope of ever finding their way out of the forest. Many of the young people refused to believe in the light they had never seen, and they mocked their elders, when, with a last weak light gleaming in their dim eyes, they recounted tales of the festive, sunny days of their youth.

Among the people, however, there was a young man called Heliopher. He was very much alone, grieving over the misery of his people and seeking a way of salvation. He bore in his heart an endless longing for light and love in the desolation which surrounded him. Heliopher left his people to seek the sun. For many months and years he wandered through the dangers of the forest and of his own soul, and often, very often, nearly lost all hope and confidence. But Heliopher bravely withstood his enemies, whether within himself or around him, and at last he reached the edge of the forest and saw the light of the sun. In terrible amazement he fell into a swoon, and when he awoke he saw in the twilight that he was watched over in his slumber by beautiful people. In the green meadows stood the simple huts of the sun-people, and Heliopher lived with them in peace and endless joy as the most beloved amongst them.

Then Heliopher went back to the forest to seek his people. “Come, brothers and sisters,” he said to them, “I will lead you to the light.” At this there was murmuring and frowning, wavering and hesitation, wonder and questioning, incredulous laughter, and finally a jubilant “Yes!” And then, at last, the longed-for departure.

Then the light of the sun shone in Heliopher’s eyes, but the way was long and difficult, and demanded much suffering and sacrifice, and murmuring arose among the people. Some spoke and said, “Let us murder him, the betrayer of the people!” And the dark glow of hatred was in their eyes. Others were wiser and said, “No! Let us judge him in the presence of all, for it is dangerous to give the people a martyr.” And Heliopher spoke to his people, and talked about light and love. But the wise ones answered, “You lie! There is no light, there is no sun, there is no love. Let us be darker than the forest and more cruel than the wild beasts. Then we shall be masters of the forest!”

Heliopher answered in great pain, “O believe not, ye wise men, that ye can be victorious over darkness by being more dark, that ye can overcome the wild beasts by being more beastly. Only love is stronger. Only the light of the sun can drive away darkness.”

“Be silent!” said the wise men. “There is no light, there is no sun!”

And the people shouted, flinging their arms about in raging despair, “There is no light, there is no sun!”

But Heliopher called out, “Follow me!” And with his nails he tore open his breast, and his heart burned with love, and it glowed and shed its beams through the dark forest. Then he took it in both hands, held it high over his head, and strode forth in front of the people.

In reverent wonder and silence the multitude followed the burning heart.

And the people went in jubilation toward the sun and danced in its loving rays, and they loved one another. But Heliopher knelt down at the edge of the forest, and with the last strength of his outstretched arms he held up his loving, pulsing heart to the light of heaven, and gave his last smile to his people.

Source: First published in Plough’s Winter 1938 issue
based on Maxim Gorky’s story
“The Flaming Heart of Danko.”

CONSIDER THIS

“I wish each of us Easter eyes, able to perceive in death, life; in guilt, forgiveness; in separation, unity; in wounds, glory; in the human, God; in God, the human; and in the I, the You.” – Bishop Klaus Hemmerle

I LOVE YOU SO MUCH

At the end of a busy day, a man and his wife were sitting at home on the veranda in the quiet of twilight, broken only by the sounds of the gentle wind and the swash of the waves. They were enjoying a glass of wine together.

As the sun slowly sank below the mountains, she broke the soothing silence saying, “I love you so much I don’t know I could ever live without you.”

The husband, a tad surprised, asks, “Is that you or the wine talking?”

She replies, “It’s me … talking to the wine.”

And the two burst out laughing!

Source: Recycled and retold by Philip Chircop sj

CONSIDER THIS

Learning to laugh a little more just may save your life, not to mention your marriage. To paraphrase Henry Ward Beecher, “A marriage without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs – jolted by every pebble in the road.”

Still not convinced? Listen to these other voices:

  • Laughter is an “instant vacation”. | Bob Hope
  • You can’t stay mad at somebody who makes you laugh.” |  Jay Leno
  • We cannot really love anybody with whom we never laugh. | Agnes Repplier

WE DO CANCER

Richard was a widower; his wife had suffered a long and painful death from cancer.  Then he met Celia; they came to love each other and each other’s children dearly.

Less than a year into their courtship, Celia discovered a lump in her breast.  She had gone to the doctor alone and was alone when she received the devastating news: the lump was malignant.

Once the reality set it in, her first thought was for Richard and his children.  They had been profoundly wounded by cancer only a few years before.  They were still healing from it.  How could she bring this terrible thing into their lives again?

She called Richard immediately and, without telling him why, simply broke off their relationship.  For several weeks she refused his phone calls and returned his letters.  But Richard would not give up and begged her to see him.

Finally, Celia relented and arranged to meet him to say goodbye.  When they met, she could see the deep strain and hurt on his face.  Richard gently asked Celia why she had broken up with him.  Finally, on the verge of tears, she told Richard the truth: that she had found a lump in her breast, that it was malignant, that she had undergone surgery a few weeks before and would begin chemotherapy the following week.

“You and the children have lived through this once already,” she told him, “I won’t put you through it again.”

He looked at her, his jaw dropping.  “You have cancer?” he asked.  Dumbly, she nodded, the tears beginning to run down her cheeks.

“Oh, Celia,” he said – and began to laugh with relief.  “We can do cancer …  we know how to do cancer.  I thought that you didn’t love me.”

Oh, but she did.  And they got through it together, happily married.

Source: Rachel Naomi Remen
My Grandfather’s Blessings
(Riverhead Books, 2001) pages 203-204]

CONSIDER THIS

The Gospel of compassion and reconciliation is “fulfilled” every time we act selflessly. Whether we can “do cancer,” whether we know how to comfort and listen and console, whether we can make a soup kitchen or a tutoring program work … whatever gifts and graces we possess can work great and wondrous things when done in the Spirit of the God who came to set us free.

GOD WILL PROVIDE

GOD WILL PROVIDE

A young woman brings home her fiancé to meet her parents. After dinner, her mother tells her father to find out about the young man. The father invites the fiancé to his study for a drink.

“So what are your plans?” the father asks the young man.

I am a bible scholar.” he replies.

“A bible scholar? Hmmm,” the father says. “Admirable, but what will you do to provide a nice house for my daughter to live in, as she’s accustomed to?”

I will study,” the young man replies, “and God will provide for us.”

“And how will you buy her a beautiful engagement ring, such as she deserves?” asks the father.

“I will concentrate on my studies,” the young man replies. “God will provide for us.”

And children?” asks the father. “How will you support children?”

“Don’t worry, sir, God will provide,” replies the fiancé.

The conversation proceeds like this, and each time the father questions him, the young idealist insists that God will provide. Later, the mother asks, “How did it go, honey?” The father answers, “The bad news is, he has no job and no plans. The good news is he thinks I’m God.”

Source | Perfect Illustrations for Every Topic and Occasion (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.; First Edition edition, 2002) page 218

CONSIDER THIS

There’s an old saying that we should “pray as if everything depends on God, work as if everything depends on you.” Some have switched it around: “pray as if everything depends on you, work as if everything depends on God.”   What do you think and how would you interpret this?

God is not going to bother to do for us what we can do for ourselves.

LED TO THE LAND OF LAUGHTER

LED TO THE LAND OF LAUGHTER

The Master was in an expansive mood, so his disciples sought to learn from him the stages he had passed through in his quest for the divine.

“God first led me by the hand,” he said, “into the Land of Action, and there I dwelt for several years.” Then God returned and led me to the Land of Sorrows; there I lived until my heart was purged of every inordinate attachment. That is when I found myself in the Land of Love, whose burning flames consumed whatever was left in me of self. This brought me to the Land of Silence, where the mysteries of life and death were bared before my wondering eyes.

“Was that the final stage of your quest?” they asked.

“No,” the Master said. “One day God said, ‘Today I shall take you to the innermost sanctuary of the Temple, to the very heart of God.’ And I was led to the Land of Laughter.”

Source: Anthony de Mello, Taking Flight
(Image Books, 1990) page 126

CONSIDER THIS

One day God said, “Today I shall take you to the innermost sanctuary of the temple, to the heart of God himself,” and I was led to the Land of Laughter.

God laughed and begat the Son. Together they laughed and begat the Holy Spirit. And from the laughter of the Three, the universe was born.” |  Meister Eckhart, a 13th century theologian and mystic.

BELIEVE IT

The seeker said to God: “Tell me, tell me something I can treasure and remember.”
And God said “I love you. I love you. I love you.”

The seeker replied: “Is that all? Tell me something else.”
And God said “Believe it!”

 Source | As heard during a retreat.

CONSIDER THIS

What would it mean for you if you were convinced that God loves you unconditionally?

SHOEMAKER MARTIN

In a certain town there lived a very honest cobbler called Martin. He lived in a tiny basement room. Its only window looked out onto the street. Of the passers-by all he could see was their feet. But since there was hardly a pair of boots or shoes that had not passed through is hands at one time or another for repair, Martin was able to identify the passers-by by looking at their shoes.

But life had been hard on Martin. His wife died, leaving him with a young son. However, no sooner had the son reached the age when he could be of help to his father than he fell ill and died. Martin buried him and gave way to despair, taking to the bottle at the same time. He gave up the practice of his religion. But one day an old friend of his dropped in. Martin poured out his soul to him. At the end of it his friend advised him to do a little reading from the Gospels each day, promising that if he did so, light and hope would come back into his life.

Where Love is, there God is also. Where Love is not, we are called to make the appropriate sacrifices, to go out of our way, to put it there. Martin took his friend’s advice. At the end of each day he would take down the gospels from the shelf and read a little. At first he meant only to read on Sundays, but he found it so interesting that he soon read everyday. Slowly his life changed. He gave up drink. The words of Christ created new hope for him and the deeds of Christ were like lights that drove out his darkness.

One night as Martin sat reading he thought he heard someone calling him. He listened and heard clearly: “Martin, Martin, look out into the street tomorrow for I will come to visit you.” He looked around the tiny room, and since there was no one to be seen he reckoned it must be the Lord Himself who had spoken to him.

So it was with a great sense of excitement that he sat down to his work the next day. As he worked he kept a close eye on the window. He was looking for something or someone special. But nothing exciting happened. Just the usual people passed by going about their everyday business.

The day wore on and nobody special passed by. In the early afternoon he saw a pair of old boots that were very familiar to him. They belonged to an old soldier called Stephen. Going to the window he looked up and saw the old man hitting his hands together for it was bitterly cold outside. Martin wished that he would move on, for he was afraid he might obstruct his view and that he would not see the Lord when he passed. But old Stephen just stood there by the railing. Finally it occurred to Martin that maybe Stephen had nothing to eat all day. So he tapped on the window and beckoned him to come in. He sat him by the fire and gave him tea and bread. Stephen was most grateful He said he hadn’t eaten for two whole days. As he left Martin gave him his second overcoat as a shield against the biting cold.

But all the time Martin was entertaining Stephen he had not forgotten the window. Every time a shadow fell on it he looked up but nobody extraordinary passed . Night fell, Martin finished his work and very reluctantly closed the window shutters. After supper he took down the Gospels and as was his custom he opened the Gospels and read at random. After reading for some time Martin put down the book and reflected. The words of the Lord came to him: “I was hungry and you fed me. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was naked and you clothed me” He understood then that Christ had indeed come to him that day in the person of Stephen, and that he had made him welcome. And his heart was filled with a peace he had never before experienced.

Source | John Mark Ministries (jmm.org)
Read the original story: Where Love Is, God Is by Leo Tolstoy
Watch the movie: Martin The Cobbler

CONSIDER THIS

  • Just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me. | Gospel of Matthew 25:40
  • To love another person. Is to see the face of God. | Epilogue in the Musical Les Miserables
  • I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least. | Dorothy Day
  • Show me the person you love the least, that’s how much you love God. | Francis de Sales