Suddenly, at the beginning of this year 2020, we are all forced to suspend our activities in order to avoid the Corona Virus (CV) or (CoViD 19) Staying at home, I cleared my cabinets and by chance, I found a bundle of stories which I wrote for my students when I was a young History teacher and adviser in the 1960’s in the United States. Reading again these stories, I smiled recalling how I used to discuss with young American students about the challenges that we are facing at that time. Then I was struck by the thought that these stories can be applied also to our challenges now. In the 1960’s, there was great fear of nuclear war that could wipe out the human race, now the CV can provoke similar fears, but it can also provoke hopes that can challenge us to reduce both the danger of wars and of pandemics. I suppose that my former students will also smile recalling these (13) stories now, and others may also smile reading these stories that can generate hope. (Fr. Peter Geremia, PIME)
3. The Most Beautiful Story Ever Told
Long ago, in a country where most people were very poor and where there was almost constant war, foreign troops stationed in every town hunting down insurgents, searching from house to house…. Well in this country there was a young girl, about fifteen. Nobody paid much attention to her, not even the boys, she was not the type to be looking for attention.
One day, something very strange happened to this girl. A mysterious messenger came to see her and he said, “Rejoice, most beautiful one! God almighty is in love with you!” She was not flattered, but upset, instead of smiling, she was almost shaking. The messenger tried to calm her “Don’t be scared, God loves you dearly. He is asking you to become the mother of a very special baby. This baby will be great, the son of the Most High, and he will be a king and his kingdom will last forever.”
The poor girl couldn’t figure it out, “How can I bear a baby, I am not married yet.” The messenger explained, “God himself will come over you and make you pregnant, therefore, your child will not be a mere human being, but the Son of God…”
The girl somehow felt that this strange proposal was not a joke, she gave herself over, “I belong to God body and soul, let him do to me as you say.” She accepted to become the mother of this mysterious child.
Who was she? Mary was her name and soon Joseph, a young man, joined her to take care of her. Now it happened that when Mary was in her last month, the two of them were forced to transfer because of an order of the Roman Emperor. They had to make a rough journey out in the mountains with no place to stay at night and Mary in that condition, travelling on a donkey for days…
When they finally came to the town of Bethlehem, Joseph tried hard to find a place, but who would take in a poor couple like them? A girl about to give birth? Joseph didn’t like the way some of the people looked at her… What to do? By that time, it was dark and cold. They wandered around in the country for a while, finally Joseph saw a cave, a shelter for animals. He looked inside, a bit scared the smell was awful, but it was a shelter. They moved in, Joseph crawled around in the dark, he gathered some straw to lie on. It was so quiet there, only the sound of animals sleeping and the wind outside…
All of a sudden, Mary turned pale and said, “It is time…” Joseph didn’t know what to do, there was nothing there, nobody around. No one knows how they managed. After a while, a baby cry broke the silence in that dark corner. A beautiful baby boy. Mary smiled. Joseph still didn’t know what he was doing…
Not far from there, there were some shepherds spending the night with their sheep. Suddenly a blinding light woke them up, some of them must have jumped up screaming “fire!” But they heard a song in the air, many voices saying, “Great news of joy! The Savior has been born! Come to see the baby in the stable!” Those simple people had never seen visions before, they didn’t know what was happening, but they set out looking for the baby…
That’s what happened, as far as I know. Most people think that they know all about this story, but did you get what it means? I am still puzzled. It sounds so simple, but it is a most mysterious story. There is a baby born in a stable where usually animals are born; in the cold, surrounded by manure… and we are told that this is our God.
The stories that you like are those with a happy ending. But look at this story: it starts with a baby in a stable, then the baby will live a very simple life, until he will come up with strange ideas that will surprise people, and he will end up on a cross. We don’t think much of a cross, but if you were to see a real cross and a body nailed to it, dripping blood… You wouldn’t be able to stand the sight of it. And that’s the end of the story, as far as most people could see.
This is the story of our Savior. And listen, he wanted it this way, he chose that kind of life. If he wanted to, he could have been born in a comfortable home, not in a stinking stable. Instead, he chose to be born out there in the cold, he chose poverty, and the bloody cross was his final choice. How many of us would choose that kind of life? No, thanks….
Can you figure it out? I am still trying to. Look at this helpless baby, young Mary and Joseph: talk to them, they can hear you. Ask them what’s the meaning of the story and what kind of life is that.
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