There was a small plane with five passengers on it. Halfway to its destination, the engines started sputtering and failing. The pilot came out from behind the curtain wearing a parachute pack on his back. He said, “Friends, I have some bad news, some good news and some bad news. The bad news is we have an engine malfunction and we’re going down. The good news is there are several parachutes here along the wall. The bad news is that there are five of you and only four of them. So, you’ll have to work it out among yourselves.” With that he was out the door.
A woman leaped up. “I am one of the most prominent brain surgeons in the northeast. My patients depend on me.” She grabbed a parachute pack and leaped out. A man stood up and said. “I am a partner in a large law practice and the office would fall to pieces without me.” He grabbed a parachute and leaped out.
Another man stood up and said, “I am known to be the smartest man in the world. My IQ is so high I won’t mention it so I don’t make you feel bad. Surely you understand that I must have a parachute.” He grabbed a pack and leaped out. There were now only two people left on the plane, a priest and a teenage boy.
“Son,” said the priest, “You take the last parachute. You’re young. You have your whole life ahead of you. I’ve had a good run. God bless you and safe landing.” The teenage boy looked up at the priest. “Thanks, padre. That means a lot to me, really, but there are still two parachutes left, because that smartest man in the world, he grabbed my backpack before he jumped.”
In many ways, it feels as if we all are in midair clinging to some kind of security. We tend to be selfish and to put ourselves first. But the Christian is to imitate Christ who sacrifices Himself to save his us.
When Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane, his human nature recoiled at the suffering of the cross. Father, if you are willing, let this cup pass from me. Christ (in his human nature) did not want to drink from that cup of suffering. But, fulfilling the will of His heavenly Father, He was willing to take up His cross and he said, not my will but thine be done. Jesus Christ did not accept suffering passively, He accepted suffering purposefully. So, when it comes to dealing with suffering, we should accept it with a holy purpose.
We see this lived out in the life of St John Bosco. We know that he suffered terrible migraine headaches especially when he preached. One day, his friend and companion, brother Rua, noticed don Bosco suffering more than usual. Brother Rua, wishing to comfort his friend, begged God, “grant me his suffering if only so that his preaching can be more successful.”
No sooner had the prayer been said than the creases in don Bosco’s forehead became smooth, his eyes widened, and the sweat stopped streaming from his brow. But simultaneously, brother Rua, went down to his knees, pressing clutched fists against his furrowed forehead saying, “O Lord, take it away, take it away!” Jesus heard brother Rua’s prayer. And the brow of don Bosco became creased once more, his eyes squinted again, and beads of sweat resumed their flow.
Afterwards, don Bosco admonished brother Rua, “you ought not ask for suffering you do not understand but rather embrace those which the good God sends you, knowing that this is your proper portion and dosage needed for your perfection.” St. John Bosco wisely teaches us, “Carry your cross on your back and take it as it comes.”