John 13:21-33, 36-38
Moses Mendelssohn, the great-grandfather of the famous German composer, was far from being a handsome man. In fact, he was inflicted with a grotesque humpback.
One day when his family was visiting a merchant in Hamburg, Moses noticed the man’s beautiful daughter. He fell hopelessly in love with her. But she was repulsed by his misshapen appearance.
When it was time for him to leave, he gathered up all his courage to try to speak with her. But this beautiful girl wouldn’t even look at him. And this caused him much pain. After several attempts at conversation, Moses shyly asked, "Do you believe marriages are made in heaven?"
"Yes," she replied, still looking at the floor. "And do you?"
"Yes I do," he replied. "You see, in heaven, at the birth of each boy, the Lord announces which girl he will marry. When I was born, my future bride was pointed out to me. Then the Lord added, ‘But your wife will be humpbacked.’"
"Right then and there I called out, ‘Oh, Lord, a humpbacked woman would be a tragedy. Please, Lord, give me the hump and let her be beautiful.’"
This beautiful girl looked up into his eyes. Then she reached out and touched his hand. Later she became his devoted wife.
The story reminded me of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
It was our infirmities (sins) that he bore, our sufferings that he endured." (Isaiah 53:4)
Indeed, Jesus took upon himself the infirmities of us all. We who were once humpbacked with selfishness and sin have been made beautiful by the sufferings and death of Christ.
The apostle John would later write, "Love then consists of this: Not that we have loved God, but that God has loved us and sent his Son as an offering for our sins. If God has loved us so, we must have the same love for one another." (1 John 4:10-11)
From the beauty God has bestowed upon us, we in turn are called upon to make our world more compassionate, more forgiving and more kind.
Fr. Alan Phillip, C.P. is a member of the Passionist Community at Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California. http://www.alanphillipcp.com/