The Pope just finished giving his traditional Wednesday Audience and was moving through the plaza to greet everyone. Like tens of thousands of others in St Peter’s Square, I was waiting for him to pass. A guardrail stood between me and the road where he would pass in the pope-mobile. On the other side of the road was a large group of the sick and mentally handicapped. They were all in wheelchairs and each was accompanied by a family member or a guardian.
As I waited, I watched the sick people. I felt sorry for them. I was praying for them. My eyes fell on one blond haired boy in particular. He couldn’t have been more than 7 years old. He was wearing a red sweater. There was no expression on his face. He was staring at the ground or off into space most of the time. Every now and then, he would try to look back to his mother who was caressing his head from behind the wheelchair.
I asked myself, “Why did you let this happen to him, Lord? Why do you allow this evil? How could you let this happen?” It would be pointless to try to describe the strong emotions I felt at that moment.
The people around me started to cheer. I looked to the left and saw the Pope coming around the bend in his pope-mobile. As he neared, everyone started shouting and cheering louder and louder to get him to look at them, but his attention was focused elsewhere. His eyes were fixed on the sick and infirm. In that moment, I no longer saw a man in white, a man who I had been told a thousand times was the Vicar of Christ. I saw Christ Himself. I saw the Good Shepherd caring for the sheep he loved the most.
The pope-mobile continued advancing down the road. One of the guards walking alongside the vehicle picked a small boy up out of his wheelchair and raised him to the Holy Father. The Holy Father smiled, kissed him and traced the sign of the cross on his forehead in blessing. The boy’s sweater was red.
Lord, I thank you for answering my prayer. It was not what I expected. You did not say a word, but I understood: the mystery of evil is great, but the mystery of your love is far greater and far more powerful.
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