I will never be able to forget a Claretian who, just after his ordination as a priest, was left bedridden for more than 25 years in a traffic accident with absolute physical and mental disability. His name was Felipe. He died in August 2020. I was only able to visit him twice. All that time he was unable to speak or express himself. Only with his gaze did he give a little hint that “something” was reaching him. This is the impression he gave me on the occasion of a visit with other colleagues shortly before Christmas when I sang Christmas carols to him in front of his expressionless gaze.

If I were now asked to give a talk on “The presence of God in today’s world“, I would probably tell what I experienced on those two fleeting visits. Perhaps it would surprise many, not only because of the brevity but above all because of the content of what I could convey. The only thing I could tell that probable audience would be the sensations I sensed next to the bed of that almost brand new missionary, trapped by an absolute physical and mental disability.

Philip never again expressed himself, much less spoke, to those who came to visit him. He lay mute and helpless, seemingly incapable of any possible communication. I approached him trying to intuit what he himself would be saying from his helplessness and silence. Perhaps God’s presence in our world is the same as this dear brother who died at the age of 57. God walks today as silent and powerless.

I believe that God’s power is like that which Philip radiated. He does not dazzle with strength, attractiveness, intelligence or grace, as do the muscles and speed of an Olympic athlete or the physical beauty of a young movie star. These latter things (speed, beauty and grace) are proper reflections of God’s glory, but they are not the most ordinary or best way in which He shows His power in the world. God’s power is more silent, more impotent and more marginal.

It did me a lot of good, because I dusted off something I had heard: that there is really only one sin in the Bible. That one sin is idolatry, that is, making a god out of something that is not God. Therefore, to know God you have to go down to the hells of those who suffer (and who doesn’t suffer?). He is in those regions and will, without any doubt, have the last word.


Juan Carlos cmf

(FOTO: Gonzalo Gutierrez)



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