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Do not lose hope: a message of encouragement

Do Not Lose Hope: A Message of Encouragement
Fr. Marcel Uwineza, S.J.

A story is told of an old farmer who was harvesting his agricultural crop. However, in the process he lost his beautiful wristwatch. He felt so much pain because of the value he attached to it. He called his best friends to come and assist him. They searched in vain and finally they gave up. The farmer was very sad. A little girl knocked at the farmer’s door and the farmer expressed his frustration. She promised that she was going to help him find the wristwatch. The farmer laughed! How can you, when those who are much older than you have not been able to find it. She stayed quiet and sat down. She listened and listened. After a few minutes she brought the wristwatch to the old man. He was deeply surprised. He asked: “How did you get it?” First, all I did was to wait for your noisy friends to leave. Second, I stay calm and listen to the sound of the wristwatch as it moved from one second to the next! The farmer was so pleased and rewarded the little girl.

Dear family of St. Patrick Parish, this time of crisis has given us so much loss. We have lost many lives and many have lost jobs. I join you all in your pain. COVID-19 crisis has prevented us to be together physically and pray at our lovely parish. Yet, all is not lost. The Church is not on vacation. I pray and hope that we take some time like “the little girl” in the story above to stay quiet, to rediscover what is essential in our life and recall that God still has more in store for us.

In this time crisis, I hope we learn to realize that everything can come to a halt, but “God alone suffices” and remains. I have been praying for you all not to lose the joy that I found in you whenever I celebrated Mass with you at our St. Patrick parish. It is the joy that comes from a personal encounter with Jesus. People asked St. Seraphim of Sarov why he was always luminous. He replied spontaneously: “That is not surprising, since the Kingdom of God is within me.” Well, we don’t think enough of the treasure of happiness and freedom which we carry and which we have the duty to share with others. It’s the joy of the Risen Lord which gives the power to act,” to love, to forgive, and the desire to build a civilization of love.

If you have never enjoyed the story of Naaman, the Army Commander of the King of Aram (2 Kings 5). This may be the time. He was asked to do something simple, that is to take a bathe in the river, but pride almost prevented him from receiving back his health. Thank God, Naaman did finally obey and he went and bathed into the river and got healed. By analogy, we too are asked to adopt some preventive measures. The latter can look difficult for some people. Please think of social distancing and other health precautions we have to take in this crisis as our “river” in which we want to “bathe” to be safe and protect others.

Do something practical in this Easter period. Even though we are still confined because of COVID-19 crisis, identify a concrete situation in your life, relationships, or workplace that needs new life and ask yourself: What can I do to be a witness of the resurrection in this situation? Who is experiencing hunger, thirst, exile, abuse, injustice, etc. Speak up when human life is under any threat. Here is a beautiful example:

Many years ago in Scotland, there was a British aristocrat who was running to London for an important session of the parliament. And his automobile got mired in the mud on this country road and he was desperate. There was no Triple AAA or no one to help him. He thought he was going to fail to get to London for the very crucial vote that was planned. When suddenly this Scottish farm boy appeared with a yoke of Oxen and goes over and pulls his car out and saves the day. The man was so grateful. He wanted to reward that farm boy. He said, surely, there is something I can do for you. But the young boy said: “no, I am very happy to be of service, Sir.” But certainly you must have some dreams. Something that you really wanted in your life. And the boy laughed: “Oh, Yes, I always wanted to be a doctor. He said, but that is beyond the realm of possibilities.” That man returned to London. He thought about how he could reward that boy. He put the boy in contact with a school that he had arranged for the boy to have a scholarship. And that boy went and studied.

Many years later, during the worst part of the Second World War, Winston Churchill was dying of Influenza. That is when he was the British Prime Minister (1940-1945). They saved his life with a miracle drug called Penicillin that had been discovered by Fleming who was the farm boy who had received the scholarship from the man who was Churchill’s father.

I keep praying that we get a new “Fleming” to give us a vaccine to deal with COVID. But as we wait for a vaccine, some people feel helpless. Like the sick carried to Jesus for healing (Luke 5:17-26), they cannot talk, cannot work, and cannot walk. It is our duty to not only carry them but to also plead for God’s healing. We need to break the roof. The man brought did not have to make a demand. We can only break the roof because we have faith in the God of Jesus Christ. We can only do so because we still have reason to dream. I remembered, as a young boy, attending a liturgy back in Rwanda after the genocide, after losing so many members of my family and the priest said: “do not lose hope, we still have reason to dream” and he recalled the words of Jeremiah—words that inspire hope: “The Lord says: ‘I know the plans I have for you, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope’.” (Jer. 29:11) Those words of Jeremiah gave me hope and a few weeks ago, I defended my doctoral dissertation. So, do not lose hope!

May the Lord bless you! Please be safe! You are in my prayers, and please pray for me!

(Posted May 06, 2020)