The smoky white clouds slowly moved eastward, changing form like churned cream. Fr. Juan Sánchez watched them move and morph into various forms of birds, reptiles and faces. “How great is our God!” he thought while taking in this natural art display. He was waiting for the 2:00pm bus that would take him to Celaya, his home town. There he would find his parents waiting for him to take him home for a weeklong visit. He had been waiting for the bus for over two hours now, but his parents had been waiting for more than 7 years. At 30 he left home and, much to the surprise of both parents and friends, announced that he was going to join the Franciscans and become a priest. That decision took him halfway across the globe where he was finally ordained in Rome by the Auxiliary bishop of Palermo. After ordination he was asked to return to Mexico and begin his work near Tabasco.
A large clock above his head let out a solitary tap to announce that it was currently 2:14. The bus was late but no one seemed to fret. Travelers sat patiently on the wood benches while a little boy ran through the aisles with a toy airplane in his hand acting out an intercontinental flight. The plane took off, twirled, hung, spun and then jetted forward to the content of its little pilot. Fr. Juan watched him pass and remembered those words of Jesus about how the Kingdom of God belongs to the childlike. He smiled at the floor and reached into his brown robe to pull out his rosary.
The bus finally arrived in a cloud of dust at 2:20. It was an old silver Bluebird that looked like it had fled the scrap yard and continued to move in hope of never returning. Passengers filed out like ants, gathering their luggage and loved ones, and heading off to their final destination. Fr. Juan watched them depart while he pressed his rosary beads between two fingers. Moments later people began to load their belongings onto the bus and enter into the belly of that silver bird. Fr. Juan followed suit and with his small suitcase in one hand and rosary in the other, he climbed up into the bus.
Most of the passengers were already in their seat, ready to depart. Others were still stuffing their bags in the overhead bins and getting ready for the long road ahead. Fr. Juan notices dozens of eyes watching his every move. “Who would have to sit next to the priest?” they thought as he paced down the aisle. No voice came inviting father to sit down. No one offered to take his bag while he looked for a seat. No; not today. All he got were cold stares from those who thought it too degrading to sit next to a man in a brown robe and leather sandals. He did not take it personally though. His heart was too pure for that. Instead he prayed for his fellow passengers as he went to the back of the bus and found a seat next to the little pilot and his mother. The bus pulled away from the station like a battleship leaving the dock. Slowly it picked up speed with every moan of the motor while leaving a trail of black exhaust in the murky sky.
The first half hour of the trip was smooth. Several people had fallen asleep to the hum of the Bluebird, ignoring the purple mountains that sank into the distant horizon. Fr. Juan left the pages of his book as the thought that they would make up lost time interrupted his reading. Just then the bus came to a slow halt at the sign of traffic. The engine growled like a pestilent dog as the bus stood still in the two lane road. They were close to the first town, Quitzeo, and it seemed like all the inhabitants were returning home at the same time. Fr. Juan thought about his family and hoped that they would not get worried by their late arrival. “JITIY” he said out loud while watching the cars zoom past the bus and disappear in the opposite direction. It was a prayer he often said during the day which meant “Jesus I Trust in You”. The line of traffic curved with the road and he could see that there were several buses in front of them and behind. It was hard to guess how long they would be there, but he doubted that they would arrive in Celaya by 6:00pm. Trusting in Jesus, he returned to his book.
After 5 minutes he was again distracted with the sound of a motorcycle approaching in the opposite lane. Its high pitch sound revealed its velocity and rose each second as it approached. Just then Fr. Juan heard a thump and the bus shifted to the right. The motorcycle lost control and bumped right into the bus where Fr. Juan was seated. That noise was followed by the screeching of rubber on tires. Then, a loud crash came from behind. The bike wedged itself under another car. Its metal frame crunched inward like an aluminum can. Immediately people in the bus got up to see what happened through the windows. Seeing the worried faces, the little boy next to Fr. Juan began to cry. But father could not hear him. He had already gotten up and was running for the door. He had to get to that young man driving the bike. He did not think. It was as if someone was guiding his every move. He ran past the parked cars and buses. He ran like he had never run before.
Moments later he arrived to the scene of the accident. The bike had slid under the belly of a car and split in two. A tire had spun off and wound up several feet to the left. The road was covered with broken glass and scraps of metal, but the biker was nowhere in sight. Fr. Juan ran past the first car where the bike was. He prayed to God while he looked for the young man who was riding the bike. Then he saw a foot protruding from underneath another car. It was splattered with blood. Fr. Juan ran around the side of the car. He saw the kid lying in a puddle of his own blood. He fell to his knees and wrapped his arms around the young man. The kids face was distorted and blood began to flow from his mouth. Fr. Juan held him up so that he would not swallow the blood. He raised his right hand over the child’s head and said, “In the case of emergency, I absolve you from all of your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
Onlookers began to surround Fr. Juan and the Young man. Some were curious; others wanted to help but did not know how. Traffic now stopped in both directions. Everyone was focused on the young man in the Franciscan’s arms. After what seemed like seconds a man arrived shouting out that he was a doctor. He crouched down close to Fr. Juan and said, “Father, this boy is still alive. If we hurry, we can get him to a hospital.” They both dislodged the young man from beneath the car and placed him carefully into the back seat of the doctor’s vehicle. He sped off while Fr. Juan watched them leave. His brown robe, now red, gave him the appearance of a surgeon or a butcher. Another man approached him with water and began to clean his arms and hands. He got most of the blood off and Fr. Juan thanked him for his help.
Then, as if nothing ever happened, he returned to the bus where he came from. As he walked, in all the people who gave him cold stares now looked at him with admiration and esteem. He was a hero. He saved a life, and perhaps a soul. Returning to his seat the woman next to him looked at him in the eyes and said, “Today, you taught me what it means to be a Good Samaritan!”
Traffic miraculously picked up again. Several people now approached him to thank him and talk about what happened. Before they thought, “Who would have to sit with the priest?” Now they all wanted to.
Thomas A. Flynn, LC studies for the priesthood in Rome. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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