At the Annual National Prayer Breakfast on February 2, 1984, President Ronald Reagan, told the old story of “the little monk,” Telemachus, a martyr whose self-sacrificial commitment to Christian ideals opened the blind eyes and deaf ears of the Romans and their fifth century Christian Emperor Honorius.
According to the story, this Turkish monk was led by an inner voice to go to Rome in order to stop the cruel and inhuman gladiatorial fights between slaves. He followed the crowds to the Colosseum where two gladiators were fighting. He jumped into the arena and tried to stop them, shouting, “In the name of Christ, hold back!”
The gladiators stopped, but the spectators became indignant. A group of them rushed into the arena and beat Telemachus to death. When the crowd saw the brave little monk lying dead in a pool of blood, they fell silent, leaving the stadium, one by one. Three days later, because of Telemachus’ heroic sacrifice of his own life, the Emperor decreed an end to the games. In today’s Gospel, which describes the miraculous healing of a deaf mute, we are invited to open our ears and eyes, loosen our tongues and pray for the courage of our Christian convictions to become the voice of the voiceless.
When something so antithetical to Christian life and behavior as the killing of innocent human life in the womb, or covering up the abuse of innocent children and vulnerable adults by the powerful, especially men vowed to conform their lives to Christ for the Kingdom, then courageous men and women, like the little monk Telemachus, are needed to show us all the way forward. How can we be open to hear God’s plan for our country and Church if not by listening in prayer to his voice.
Hearts that are focused on their own selfish rights to the exclusion of others, even these hearts can be reached by prayer and Christian love and mercy. The hearts of those powerful leaders of Church and state who neglect their responsibility to protect the innocent and to heal and care for the wounded can be converted by God’s grace.
Lord, give us the courage and faith of Telemachus, the hope of Isaiah the Prophet, and the healing love and mercy of the Lord Jesus. Amen.
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Copyright 2018 Fr. Willy Raymond, C.S.C.