As Christmas approaches I find myself thinking more and more about a story I once heard about a little boy named Giacomo. I don’t know where it originated so I can’t give the author their rightful credit. As the story goes, Giacomo was an enthusiastic and delightful child, with a positive attitude but also a mischievous streak that would land him in trouble often.
His older brother Sam had little patience for Giacomo’s antics and the many pranks of which he was so frequently the object. Sam would regularly report his displeasure to their Mom and Dad. They would warn Giacomo often that he needed to improve his behavior…especially as Christmas approached. After all, Santa sees everything and Giacomo just might find himself with a big lump of coal or worse, come Christmas morning. Try as he may, he was good for days at a stretch but Giacomo still had trouble resisting mischief.
Well, the glorious day finally arrived and the boys jumped out of bed Christmas morning and ran downstairs to the tree to see their presents. Sam got there first and spied a nice pile of gifts with his name on it but for Giacomo, alas, there was a big stinky pile of horse manure. Sam felt a little badly for his brother but couldn’t resist a snicker that Giacomo was finally getting what he deserved. But, when Giacomo got down the stairs and saw the horse manure his eyes opened wide with wonder and he began jumping up and down with excitement. Sam was incredulous. “What’s wrong with you? Don’t you see you got horse manure instead of toys? Why are you so excited?” Without missing a beat Giacomo replied “Are you kidding me?! With all of that horse manure there must be a pony around here somewhere!” Well just as Giacomo couldn’t resist mischief even Sam couldn’t resist Giacomo as he truly was an optimist.
I know some people today with big problems and challenges, like a friend in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Even if he were guilty it would not be the kind of thing that would normally warrant prison time – especially for someone with no prior record. The case dragged on for years, fueled by a corrupt billionaire and crooked judges that did his bidding. Finally, after draining his savings and retirement accounts, he realized he couldn’t continue the defense without permanently jeopardizing his family’s future. If he pleads guilty he was told he would likely get just probation or house arrest. Even the prosecutors, knowing his innocence asked the judge only for probation. Instead, he was sentenced to a year in prison.
Shocked and dismayed, he submitted, trusting that God has a plan in all the He allows. Placed in the worst facility in the federal system, he hasn’t seen the light of day for 9 months – no gym, no outdoor basketball or tennis, not the “country club” that so many other minimum security facilities are rumored to be. Determined to bring good out of his circumstances he began teaching a Bible study and the Rosary. The prisoners hungered for what he shared. He volunteered to teach GED classes so those who never finished high school could have better lives when they are released. He used his contacts to help those that are leaving get jobs. His wife arranged a priest to start coming to visit the inmates, to hear confessions, and bring communion. For years, no priest or chaplain had visited these forgotten prisoners. Though he should have been eligible to leave after 6 months, prison officials continue to drag their feet to arrange his release. In a circumstance that would leave most people bitter, he looks for ponies. Like Joseph in the Old Testament, bad people framed him with evil intent, but God allowed it for good.
We need constant reminders that no matter what the circumstances, God always has a plan and will always bring a greater good from our sufferings, even those that seem so senseless and inexplicable. God can only bless. That is His nature. Sure, we hear of God sending chastisements or punishing evil doers. And yes, He does do that at times. But it’s always as a correction, as a prevention of worse harm. It is always to call them back.
As we celebrate this Jubilee Year of Mercy, let us take seriously the call to trust…in Jesus, in His Mercy, in His power to use even the worst circumstances for good. But, more than anything to trust in His love for us. By trust, we allow God to use us in the ways He needs us. He knows the pain this causes you. Like the friends who seem to ignore your birthday as they plan your surprise party, God may allow you to suffer now for a greater reward later. He is never out done in generosity. Trials will come and some may be bitter but trust lightens the burden. Worry and resentment adds only more weight. Look for the ponies.
Wishing you a Blessed and Merry Christmas.
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