by Father Frank Mann
Imagine: you are a young boy and your father threatens to kill you during a violent rampage at home. He strips you naked, beats you with a spatula and burns both of your hands on a hot stove. With your skin freshly peeling from your hands, your dad proceeds to relentlessly punch you in the face and then forces you into the oven, threatening to burn you alive as you helplessly scream for someone to help.
The horror doesn’t end here! Your father forcefully throws you nude onto the front lawn. Once he allows you back inside the house, he orders you to stay on the floor “like a dog.”
It is incredibly difficult to imagine this repugnantly nasty scenario. But it did happen most recently to little Christopher Moss in Saten Island.
The district attorney from the area, Daniel Donovan, stated, “In over 15 years as a district attorney and as an assistant district attorney, this was one of the most shocking and sadistic cases of child abuse I have ever prosecuted.”
What follows next truly staggers the mind. Christopher Moss made an emotional plea to the judge in a handwritten letter: “Dear Judge, I will fight so hard for my dad to live with me. He is not supposed to be in jail for eight days, months or years. He made a big mistake, but really somewhere in his heart, he is funny, lovable, caring and a great father in the whole entire world. Everybody in my family is giving him a second chance. Will you?”
Moss concludes his request by adding, “I just can’t see my dad taken away from me. Right now, I am crying because he is the only dad I need. And if he is not with me, I am nothing without him. God will solve everything if you make the right choice. And I forgive my dad a lot.”
James Moss (the father) was spared a seven-year prison term thanks to the unconditional love of his son.
Nobody can argue the fact that Christopher Moss is an exceptional young fellow who gave the gift of what I would call genuine love.
I recall watching an episode of the Oprah Winfrey show some time ago – an episode that truly startled me.
On one particular hot day in the deep south, the Ku Klux Klan decided to organize one of their venomous rallies of hate. On the opposite side of the street (separated by police barricade) were some black folk who were counter-protesting the Klan’s presence. At one point, a young black woman noticed that a young man (likewise black) standing next to her, was about to break through the barricade. She likewise became alarmed when she noticed that he had a baseball bat hidden under his coat. His intent was an attempt at bludgeoning the Klan’s supreme leader.
In a quickly executed act of selfless courage, the young black woman broke through the barricade and jumped on top of the Klan leader to protect him from possible injury or even likely death.
Some might have declared this exceptional individual as being “certified crazy.” Unquestionably, however, she shared with the world the rare gift of genuine love.
When I was a kid, I fastidiously saved a handsome sum of money from being a Tablet newspaper delivery boy. My sole intent was to purchase for my dad a much needed winter coat. One day we took a quick journey to Delancey St. in lower Manhattan. He was thrilled beyond words when I returned to the car with his long-awaited and rather unexpected Christmas gift.
On the return trip home, my father noticed a homeless man both sitting and shivering on the sidewalk. He decided to pull over and offer the poor soul a cup of hot coffee and a sandwich. What followed enraged me so much that I found myself in a rather tense, speechless stupor. My dad decided to give the man the coat I had just given him! Needless to say, my outrage lasted well into the new year. It took me quite some time before I became increasingly aware and assured that his generosity was an exemplary gift of genuine love.
Without doubt, the Lord’s sacrificial death on the cross speaks volumes about the wondrous reality of genuine love!
In “The Brothers Karamazov” by Dostoyevsky, a woman by the name of Madam Hohlakov visits a holy priest named Father Zosima. She ardently seeks his counsel regarding possible proof of the immortality of the soul. Zosima answers her with a transformative, soul-stirring response, “Love is such a priceless treasure that you can redeem the world by it and expiate not only your own sins but the sins of others.”
He adds so eloquently, “… if you practice active, honest love, you will grow each day in the understanding of the reality of God and of the immortality of your soul.”
Father Zosima both inspires and motivates Madame Hohlakov, “… attain to perfect self-forgetfulness in the love of your neighbor, then you will believe in immortality without any doubt.”
Herein is a profound mystery. All genuine love gives us a privileged peek into paradise.
As we gather to celebrate the feast of St. Francis of Assisi on Oct. 4, we are uniquely invited to share in his heartfelt embrace of all created life. The well-known prayer of the beloved saint exemplifies the gratuitous gift of extreme love. Herein is found the blessed blueprint which will gloriously open wide the floodgates of God’s redemptive grace:
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.”