Last summer, the Bishop of Corpus Christi, Texas, Bishop Mulvey, told us a very moving story.
Some years ago he went to visit a seminary in Pakistan.
The rector and two seminarians welcomed him at the airport.
Right away, one of the seminarians struck the Bishop in a particular way. He was very kind, joyful, and gentle. Also, this seminarian had a very distinct scar along his right cheek.
After some days in the seminary, this seminarian wanted to share with the Bishop his story about how he had received his scar.
He told the Bishop that the previous summer he had worked in the assembly line of a jam factory near the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan. In that area, a very low percentage of the population is Christian.
One day his Muslim manager, angry and yelling at him, asked him, “Someone told me that you are a Christian. Is it true?”
The seminarian answered affirmatively.
The manager continued, “You cannot work here anymore because you are an infidel and, by touching the jars of jam, you contaminate them.”
The manager was so angry that he took a jar, broke it, and, with the glass, profoundly cut the seminarian’s face.
This seminarian didn’t say a word.
In that country there was no legal appeal that could be made.
For quite some time, the seminarian’s felt conflicted and confused in his heart.
He had to stay at home for awhile to heal. Then, he went back to the seminary.
One day, he was at Mass and, at the moment of the offertory, Jesus’ words came to his mind: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift” (Mt 5:23-24).
Speaking with his spiritual director, he realized that it wasn’t enough to forgive this former manager in the secret of his heart. It was also necessary to let him know that he was forgiven and that there was still hope for him.
The seminarian decided to write him a kind letter that said: “Dear …. I want to ask for your forgiveness if I did something that caused you to be angry. I believe in a God that created us all and made us brothers.”
Because it was during the month of Ramadan, he added, “Happy Ramadan.”
Some time went by. The seminarian was visiting his family for Christmas vacation. Someone knocked at the door and wanted to talk with the seminarian.
It was his former manager.
He had the seminarian’s letter in his hand. He felt that it was he that needed to ask for forgiveness to the seminarian. He told him, “You didn’t have to ask for forgiveness from me. You didn’t do anything wrong to me. It is I that wronged you, gravely. Forgive me. I believe in the same God who you believe in. He created us, and we are all His. You practice your Faith, and I don’t. This is the true difference between us. Forgive me.”
At this point, the two embraced and cried together. They spoke awhile, and the manager continued, “You have a permanent mark on your cheek. How are you going to live with it?”
The seminarian replied, “Every morning when I look at myself in the mirror, I think of you, and I think of the truth that you are my brother.”
This is a story of great mercy.
Today, we want to focus our attention on the first three spiritual works of mercy: consoling the doubtful, instructing the ignorant, admonishing the sinner.
The biggest doubt that someone may be assailed by is that they are not loved and they are not lovable.
This seminarian showed brotherly love to his former manager and was able to foster in him the ability to reciprocate that love.
The worst ignorance is not only illiteracy. For sure, illiteracy is a social plague that needs to be addressed. However, the most devastating ignorance is the lack of knowledge and understanding of the Goodness of the Father. The seminarian wasn’t afraid of witnessing to his Faith in God’s love with his own “cheek.”
There is no better way to admonish a sinner than by showing Love.
Today, we want to ask the Father for the grace, the desire, and the strength to believe in Love so that we can witness to Him and live united with Him in our own flesh. This way, everyone will feel loved because they are lovable.
I will pray to the Father and ask Him to make my heart similar to His. I will ask myself more often: “How would Jesus counsel, instruct, or admonish?”