Father Barney told a story in Mass this morning. It was about a man who was in a terrible car accident.
The man awoke several days later and discovered that he couldn’t move his feet, his legs, his arms, his head. He couldn’t move anything. The doctors explained that his spinal cord had been severed and that he was completely paralyzed and would be for the remainder of his life. He could see and hear and that was it. His ability to speak was gone. Even his ability to breathe on his own.
At first, everyone came to visit him. But over time most of them began to fade away. Even visits from his wife and children became less and less frequent. They had their lives to live. It was just too hard to sit with someone they knew was so unhappy, too awkward trying to communicate.
The man sunk into a deep depression. All he could do was think about what he had lost.
Late one night, an angel of the Lord visited the man. “The Lord has sent me to heal you,” the angel announced. He touched the man’s forehead and disappeared. Instantly, the man could feel that he was healed. He could move. He sat up in bed and pulled the respirator tube out of his mouth and began to breathe. He climbed out of bed and nearly ran from the room, laughing and crying at the same time.
“Now,” Father Barney asked us, “who do you think would be the happiest man in world?”
Everyone in the congregation knew the answer: That’s easy! It would obviously be this man. He would be overjoyed that he could breathe and talk and walk and experience life. Obviously, he would be the happiest man in the world!
Then Father Barney tossed the spiritual hand grenade: “But you can do all these things,” he said. “You can breathe and talk and walk and experience life. So why aren’t you the happiest man in the world? Why aren’t you the happiest woman in the world?”
What’s the answer?
“The man in the story is happy,” Father Barney explained, “because he is aware of what he has been given. He’sgrateful. I think we could almost say that gratitude is the very key to happiness. Most of us aren’t happy enough because we aren’t grateful enough.”
At this point Jesus might have said to the crowds, “Let him who has eyes to see, see. Let him who has ears to hear, hear.”
What the Lord said to me as I walked out of Mass into a beautiful sunny morning in Ventura County, CA, blue skies overhead, car keys in my pocket and money to buy a cup of coffee on my way to the office, was more along the lines of: “If the shoe fits, wear it.”