“Today I learnt what it means to LOVE, as Christ loves” – Pilgrim Reflection

By Pilgrim Maddie Vella

Christ commanded; “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” As children of God we are called to love our brothers and sisters. I have journeyed through my entire life hearing and accepting that commandment but failing to understand it… until today. Today I learnt what it means to LOVE, as Christ loves.

After waking up in our stylish hotel in the heart of Mexico City, most of us were complaining about how tired we were as we piled our plates for breakfast. I had no idea that I was about to experience an encounter that would transform my heart.

Boarding the bus bound for Santa Fe in Southern Mexico City I absorbed the culture around me: people everywhere, crazy drivers breaking road rules, children eagerly waving to our bus and the unavoidable poverty, evident on every corner.

We eventually arrived at the Sisters of Charity Missionary Orphanage. Blessed Mother Theresa’s grace and presence was extremely noticeable to me when I entered the orphanage. We were told by Sister Lorissa that there were three sections we would be working in – children, youth and elderly. We followed Sister through this house of peace, up the stairs to meet the orphaned children. Many of these children had disabilities and needed extra care, but the joy in which they received us was simply over-whelming. Sister asked who wanted to stay and work with the children. I would have loved to have spent the day with them, however something stirred within leading me to believe that Christ had other plans for me that day. He had a challenge in store for me and a lesson in humility to teach me. So, I didn’t volunteer.

After farewelling the children and some fellow pilgrims we continued to follow sister through the house, back down the steps, past the comforting image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and into a room that immediately echoed the painful wailing of one of the 19 disabled youth there. Suddenly I knew this was were I needed to spend my day in mission. I know how to love children, that is easy, but I didn’t know what it meant to love the sick, the dying, and the vulnerable. I was about to rediscover the grace and mercy of Our Lord, as He began to teach me humility and love.

When I entered the room there was an extremely confronting image before me, and my first instinct was to withdraw, to run back up and play with the children.  But then I realized, that’s not what Jesus did. Jesus never turned His back on someone in need, for we are all equal and loved in the eyes of God. I trusted and I surrendered my hesitation to God’s will as I found myself extending a hand to this young girl with the most captivating smile.

Sister Lorissa wasted no time preparing for lunch. We lined up and received a plate of food with a name. Little did I know that the name on that plate belonged to a young girl who was about to change my life. I walked over and began to feed her. It took a while to get used to it but we worked together and communicated through our eyes and by smiling. I was so captivated by Edith who was bound to her wheel chair and couldn’t speak or use her hands. I wanted to know more about this girl, so I asked Sister Lorissa.

The first question I asked was how old she was. She was 25. This was the first shock as I thought she was about 13. Sister told me that if Edith wasn’t here she probably wouldn’t be alive. She was abandoned by her mother at birth and had lived in the orphanage ever since.  I then asked sister what disability she had. Sister told me that Edith’s disability was caused by the medication her mother took when she was pregnant with Edith. Her mother was taking medication to abort her but it had failed and meant that Edith was confined to a life of disability. I was deeply moved by her story and the gravity of the importance of the Pro-life movement began to sink in.

As I was feeding Edith I was wondering how these sisters could dedicate their life to doing this day in day out for their entire life. The more I thought about it the more I began to realize that if I had to, I probably could, as in, if I had to care for my brothers I would do it without hesitation. It was then that it hit me – this young woman was my sister. I was called to care for her, to express my concern for her, to dedicate my time for her and to love her.

Initially I thought I was the one doing all the giving. I was the one who had done the noble thing by travelling across the world to give up a day to serve the orphaned. I never once stopped to consider that I might receive something in return. As the day progressed I realized – I had given very little in comparison to what I had received. God’s reasons for calling me to that room allowed me to learn a great lesson in humility and love. I cannot express in words the gratitude I feel towards Edith.  One may question how a young girl in a small orphanage in a big city can change someone’s life? How can she demonstrate sacrificial love? Trust me, she can, and she did. The joy and the peace she radiated was overwhelming and through her zest for life and comforting smile one’s heart cannot help but be transformed and begin to learn how to love as Christ did as He hung on the cross for our Salvation.

Christ died so that we may have life and live it to the full. At the orphanage I was confronted with this reality – no matter what your circumstances are, no matter what challenges you face, no matter what crisis is going on in your life – Christ is there. He dwells inside each and everyone of us, patiently waiting for us to acknowledge that so that he can bring out the best in us; so that we can learn to love as He did. Once we say ‘yes’ to God’s will the graces are abounding. We are graced with the privilege of having God’s love poured into our receptive hearts so that we may empty that love into the world and share it with others.

So let us pray that we may always strive to be instruments of Christ’s love and reflect this love in the decisions we make and the people we meet. Let us imitate Christ here on Earth and through this may we always seek Christ in others. Let us recognise that God has given us everything we need to live according to His word. Loving is hard sometimes, I won’t deny that – we only have to look at Christ’s suffering to understand that. He had to carry His cross, the cross that he would later hang from and continue to show abounding love and forgiveness as His final actions here on Earth. Why?  – Because He LOVED. By surrendering to God’s will, Christ was able to Love. In what should have been perceived as the moment of Christ’s despair proved to be the pinnacle of His glory as the resurrection was His reward for loving. Let us do God’s will and learn to love like Christ so that we may seek heavenly glory as our reward.

May we also be comforted by the words of Blessed Pope John Paul II –

“Do not be afraid to be the Saints of the new millennium!”

Your sister in Christ,

Madeleine Vella

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