Crippled from birth, you sit, placed outside the “Beautiful Gate.” Recognizing the irony, you look down at your legs, legs you know will never walk through that “Beautiful Gate.”
Your family brings you here to beg for alms each day. You hope to make just enough to cover necessities so you won’t become a greater burden. With little money, you try not to think about what will happen if your health fails, and you don’t pause to consider what will happen as you age. You live only to get through each day thankful to no longer be consumed by what you’re missing, by old dreams of running freely like other kids your age, of that dream job your peers grumble over, of that hole in your heart the spouse and children you’ve always longed for would have filled.
You’ve come to accept your “place” outside of the Beautiful Gate – ironic, yes, but hopeless – no.
You reach your hand out to two men, swallowing your dignity – do you have any dignity left? It’s not so much your crippled legs that keep you from being proud. It’s more the constant need to ask for help, the total reliance on others. It’s every day life wearing you down.
The men actually stop and make eye contact. That, in itself, is surprising. Most just pass right by. Some drop a coin into your, wrinkled, outstretched palm but are as careful to avoid touching you as they are to avoid eye contact. These men are different. You feel it the instant you raise your eyes to theirs and see the intensity with which they look at you.
For a moment, you shrink back. They see inside you. They know every bad thought and word and action you’ve ever had. They see the insecurities, the jealousies, the unworthiness you try to hide from the world.
But still you keep eye contact. Something draws you in and you realize their penetrating gaze sees your sinfulness but holds no condemnation, and so with a wrinkled brow, you stretch your hand farther, ever hopeful. Perhaps they are royalty in disguise. Perhaps this would be a big payoff!
Your heart sinks a little as the first one – his friend calls him Peter – begins to speak, telling you he has no silver or gold to give. You were SO certain this would be a big payoff, and your disappointment almost makes you miss what he says next, but you concentrate more carefully as Peter continues,
I have neither silver nor gold,
but what I do have I give you:
in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean,
and then he says the words that would have made you scoff had he said them to someone else:
rise and walk.
Suddenly, your hips shift, your thighs bulge under the garment which had wrapped moments before loosely around your body, your knees straighten, your ankles and feet grow strong, and you are standing! There is no wobbliness of a toddler learning to walk! You can walk and jump and run and dance, and the words the man spoke sink in. He performed this miracle in the name of Jesus Christ!
The man who was no ordinary man, but the Son of God!
You’ve heard rumors of this Jesus Christ and even came close to seeing him through the crowd a few times. You used to lie outside the Beautiful Gate thinking, if only you could get close enough Jesus could cure you too. You used to lie there thinking of others Jesus had cured and wondering why He hadn’t healed you too?
These memories are forgotten as you feel a previously unknown strength empower your lower body. You walk and jump and begin a song that you will sing through your eternity – your own song of praise for the God who Saves You!
And you know you will one day walk through The Most Beautiful Gate, giving thanks the entire time!
How many times after divorce and abandonment do we feel like the crippled beggar? How often do we see our shattered dreams of the job, the family, the life we’d hoped for as the final answer? How often do we drive past homes with swimming pools and picket fences only seeing what we don’t have without considering what those walls may be hiding? How often have we thought of ourselves as a burden or worried about the future or refused to plan for the future because it was just too overwhelming? How often have we been defeated by our insecurities, our jealousies, our unworthiness when we have been Blessed beyond measure and should be reaching out to others?
I love the first reading from Sunday’s vigil, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, and the parallels between it and abandoned spouses and children. I especially love how much better life turned out for the beggar than he expected! How many times have we looked at life and thought it hopeless? How many times have we compared our lives to others’ and thought our lives lacking? How many times have we given up even asking for what we most desire, settling for begging for alms when we really want to get up and dance?
Life, even after divorce, is a beautiful experience when we keep our eyes out for the Good around us rather than becoming centered on the negative. God often gives Blessings beyond what we would even think to hope for when we ask Him in the name of Jesus Christ.
If you are sitting outside of the Beautiful Gate unable to move, do not give up! Do not accept less than the Blessings God intends for you. Keep asking the Lord to give you strength and healing and find the Joy and thanksgiving to dance a little every day.