In our first reading from the Book of Job we heard of these human conditions, drudgery, slavery, misery, troubled, restlessness, anxiety, hopelessness, and sorrow. All these in a very short reading, a real downer, but I’m sure that most everyone can relate. We’ve probably experienced each of these states; they are part of the human condition. As we know our Lord experienced all things human, he experienced everything we have, but without sin. In His true humanity he knows how it feels to be miserable, troubled, restless, anxious, and sorrowful. But he did come to heal us of all that, to heal us of all that afflicts us.
In our gospel today, Peter’s mother-in-law is sick, and the disciples demonstrate the Christian response to troubles: they immediately tell Jesus about it. They go to Jesus. When there’s trouble they go to Jesus. That is their very first instinct, they don’t even know what he’s going to do, but they trust, they go to him first. This is what a Christian disciple does. St. Basil, a fourth century doctor of the Church wrote that a disciple is one whoever draws near to the Lord, to follow him, to hear him, to believe him, and to obey him, obeying him as Lord, and King, and Doctor, and Teacher of all truth. Complete abandonment to Him.
Fr. Dolindo Ruotolo was such a disciple. He understood the relationship between our neediness and God’s goodness. Fr. Dolindo was an Italian priest who lived from 1881-1970. Ordained at the age of 23, Don Dolindo spent his life in prayer, sacrifice and service. He heard confessions, gave spiritual guidance and cared for those in need. Fr. Dolindo was a contemporary of the more widely known saint, Padre Pio. When some pilgrims from Naples, where Don Dolindo lived, went to Padre Pio in Pietrelcina, Padre Pio responded: “Why do you come here, if you have Don Dolindo in Naples? Go to him, he’s a saint!”
As scholars begin to study his many written works this simple priest is becoming most known for his spirituality of surrender. He was well aware of the depth of human weakness and neediness, and Fr. Dolindo saw this as a way of fostering continual union with God. While inviting us to continually bring our worries and concerns to the Lord, Fr. Dolindo would teach that the focus doesn’t stay on our needs. Instead he would always encourage his people to bring their needs to God and to then be at peace, leaving God free to care for them in his own way and his own wisdom. Don Dolindo told his people that the Lord has promised to fully take on all the needs we entrust to him. In his own words: a thousand prayers do not equal one act of abandonment; give yourself to Jesus, and don’t forget it. Every malady we suffer is an opportunity for trusting in the love of Jesus. Give it to God and let go. And there is no better prayer than this he would say: Jesus, I abandon myself to you. Jesus, you take over. Repeated over and over many times throughout the day.
Fr. Dolindo knew suffering, his body was crippled with arthritis, his legs were always covered in ulcers that were always becoming infected, and for the last ten years of his life he was completely paralyzed. In each of these sufferings and every day of his life he too would pray: Jesus you take over. This always filled him with joy.
We know that Jesus is the Divine Doctor; the Divine Physician as we say, he healed the mother-in-law of a fever. And like any good doctor he is attracted to a wound. Have you ever noticed how doctors will sometimes talk about different cases they may have seen. And they will sometimes talk about the wounds they have seen, in great gory detail sometimes, they are attracted to them because they want to heal them. In the same way our Divine Doctor wants to heal our wounds, he’s attracted to them. He wants to heal us; sometimes physically, but he also wants to heal us of our spiritual wounds of drudgery, slavery to sin, misery, troubledness, restlessness, anxiety, hopelessness, and sorrow, all the things of Job. He wants to heal. God is not attracted to our gifts, and virtues, but rather to our weakness, brokenness, and sin. This is the very definition of Mercy. He wants to heal.
God loves like a doctor, he loves like a doctor loves a wound, and we are wounded. And God rushes to our wounds. Every time we make the sign of the cross He rushes to our wounds. So as his disciples, go to Him, let Him minister to the wound, abandoning everything to Him saying, Jesus you take over, Jesus you take over, Jesus you take over.
Pax et Bonum,
Fr. Christopher J. Ankley