We grew up only 20-minutes away by car. Los Angeles was and still is big enough that we would have never met except for a pandemic super-flu and a civil war. The fact that we met and married goes to show that God can make good out of evil.
I was set to graduate in 2002 and be a Peace Corps volunteer in Xian, China. Two weeks before I would leave to DC for Staging, I received a disappointing call: the Peace Corps program in China was canceled indefinitely due to SARS. All current volunteers were being evacuated immediately. My goal to get into a Tier 1 MBA school and then work in a prestigious investment bank was based on getting this work experience in China. China was where the money will be in the future and the only way I could afford two years’ worth of experience in China was through the Peace Corps. I didn’t think about the poor people getting sick in China from SARS, or the fear people felt from this super-flu. I only cared about my own dreams. Even to this day, I associate SARS to how my roadmap to become a high-flying investment banker was burned.
I tried to find new meaning in my life for two years, working in the private sector, before I decided to sign up for the Peace Corps, again. This time, it’d be a two-for-one: I’ll get both an MBA and Peace Corps’ experience at the same time via the Master’s International Program:
While I was getting ready for my Peace Corps assignment, my future wife was getting ready to evacuate from hers. Anne Marie and her fellow volunteers were in Nepal for less than a year before the Nepalese Civil War intensified. The Maoists bombed a U.S. facility in Nepal on September 10th; exactly six years later, our first daughter, Maya, was born. Three days before my 25th birthday, Anne Marie left Nepal. She didn’t quit the Peace Corps. Instead, she signed up again and was given two years in Guatemala. The threads God were weaving in His Tapestry brought the patterns of our lives closer together.
The human heart is not generous enough to give up all, and be satisfied with the love of God. It wishes other things besides God, and because God will have no other love in His place, it fears the love of God which demands this sacrifice, and it sacrifices God instead.
I would love to look deeper into the poem one day. This poem managed to convert the hearts of a few English readers to the Catholic faith. A poem with that kind of evangelical power deserves a deeper look.
The poem is rather dense, though. There are words that I’ve never seen before (i.e. “dravest”). And analyzing a poem seems a luxury in time that I don’t remember having since my undergraduate years.
Fortunately, for the time being, I can use the insights from Fr. J.F.X. O’Conor, S.J.
My gut reaction was “All right! Cool!” The charity and love in that statement was very appealing to me. I assumed that since it was the Pope who said it, then it must be theologically sound. Then a Protestant friend of mine challenged me, “Where is that based in Scripture?” So, that got me thinking.
I’m not really good with remembering Scripture, so I have Matt Fradd to thank for his article about Pope Francis’ homily. God “wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4) and “is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9). The Gospel of Matthew needs a bit of commentary for the following verse “the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt 20:28). According to the commentary, “‘many’ does not mean that some are excluded, but is a Semitism designating the collectivity who benefit from the service of the one, and is equivalent to ‘all.'”
Romans 5:18 was also instructive: “just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.” Paul did not write “justification and life for Christians,” but “for all.” He means everyone: the soldiers who nailed Christ to the Cross, the Pharisees who mocked him, and even the atheists of today.
While my Protestant friend would not accept the Catechism as an authoritative source, its interpretation of Scripture is something even Catholics who felt scandalized by what the Pope said cannot ignore (CCC 605):
At the end of the parable of the lost sheep Jesus recalled that God’s love excludes no one: “So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish” (Mt 18:14). He affirms that he came “to give his life as a ransom for many”; this last term is not restrictive, but contrasts the whole of humanity with the unique person of the redeemer who hands himself over to save us (Mt 20:28; cf. Rom 5:18-19). The Church, following the apostles, teaches that Christ died for all men without exception: “There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer” (Council of Quiercy in 853 A.D.; cf. 2 Cor 5:15; 1 Jn 2:2). [Emphasis mine.]
The following advice has been blogged about by various people. I haven’t been able to find the original source. So, if you happen to know, please comment and let me know.
The story allegedly comes from Muhammad Ali‘s daughter, Hana, a name that also happens to belong to my youngest daughter as well. Ali’s daughter visited him one day, but was dressed indecently. The story continues:
When we finally arrived, the chauffeur escorted my younger sister, Laila, and me up to my father’s suite. As usual, he was hiding behind the door waiting to scare us. We exchanged many hugs and kisses as we could possibly give in one day.
My father took a good look at us. Then he sat me down on his lap and said something that I will never forget. He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Hana, everything that God made valuable in the world is covered and hard to get to. Where do you find diamonds? Deep down in the ground, covered and protected. Where do you find pearls? Deep down at the bottom of the ocean, covered up and protected in a beautiful shell. Where do you find gold? Way down in the mine, covered over with layers and layers of rock. You’ve got to work hard to get to them.”
He looked at me with serious eyes. “Your body is sacred. You’re far more precious than diamonds and pearls, and you should be covered too.”
You’re driving home from work next Monday after a long day. You turn on your radio and you hear a brief report about a small village in India where some people have suddenly died, strangely, of a flu that has never been seen before. It’s not influenza, but four people are dead, so the Centers for Disease Control is sending some doctors to India to investigate.
You don’t think too much about it — people die every day — but coming home from church the following Sunday you hear another report on the radio, only now they say it’s not four people who have died, but thirty thousand, in the back hills of India. Whole villages have been wiped out and experts confirm this flu is a strain that has never been seen before.
By the time you get up Monday morning, it’s the lead story. The disease is spreading. It’s not just India that is affected. Now it has spread to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and northern Africa, but it still seems far away. Before you know it, you’re hearing this story everywhere. The media have now coined it “the mystery flu.” The President has announced that he and his family are praying for the victims and their families, and are hoping for the situation to be resolved quickly. But everyone is wondering how we are ever going to contain it.