Many years ago, a man came to Sadhu Vaswani. He was in tears; in his heart was the spirit of repentance. He sobbed and wept like a child, and said to Sadhu Vaswani: "Master, I have greatly sinned. I have committed heinous crimes. Am I lost forever? Am I doomed to eternal damnation? Or, is there any hope for me?"
Sadhu Vaswani gazed deep into the eyes of this man. That look of love I can never forget. Sadhu Vaswani said to him: "My brother, there is hope for you. There is hope for everyone. No one is lost forever."
Yes! No one is lost forever. For within every one of us dwelleth the Lord. In the case of most of us, He is asleep. The day comes in the life of everyone when the Lord wakes up and the profligate becomes a prophet, the sinner becomes a saint.
A divine transformation
At one time St. Augustine lived a life of profligacy. His mother tried to reform him, but all in vain. The son would not listen. On one occasion, the mother said to him: "My son, what are you doing? Your father is a man of reputation. You are bringing disfame to him." Augustine, we are told, got mad at her and, in a fit of temper, struck her.
The mother did not give up. Everyday, she prayed for him. She asked God to touch his heart, to transform him and make him new! Her prayer was answered. St. Augustine became one of the greatest saints the Church has produced.
From drunkard to a poet
There is a very beautiful poem written by the great English Poet, Francis Thompson. He was a gambler, a drunkard, who moved in the company of women of questionable character. Sometimes, he would be found lying in a gutter. He drank so heavily that he lost all awareness.
One day, as he was lying in a gutter, a man of God happened to pass by. He picked him up, took him home, cleansed him, bathed his body, gave him new clothes to wear. He showered so much love and affection on him, that his life was changed. They asked this holy man, what was the reason that he took so much interest in a sinner? The holy man answered: "I felt that he was like a jewel lying in the mud: all I did was to bring the Jewel home." Francis did become a jewel. In his immortal poem, The Hound of Heaven, Francis Thompson writes:
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up Vistaed hopes, I sped;
And shot, precipitated
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbed pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat - and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet -
"All things betray thee, who betrayest Me."
"God would not let me go", says Francis. "I fled away from Him, but God did not forsake me. He never forsakes His own!"
Yes, God is the Good Shepherd. He leaves 99 sheep and sets out in quest of the 100th sheep which has been lost.
With such a God to take care of us, we must never be disheartened. In sin, too, is the Sinless One. Therefore, we must never look down upon a sinner, never regard the sinner with contempt, but give him the love of our hearts. It is love that can reclaim him, bring him back, make him new.
The power of love
A Bishop, in the Course of a lecture, referred to a Sunday School teacher who worked in a slum area. He brought together the poor children of that area and spoke to them of the love of God. He found that their clothes were dirty, tattered and torn. He said to them: "I shall get for you new clothes. You must wear them every Sunday morning as you come to attend the class."
Every boy received a beautiful pair of clothes. On the following Sunday, he found that one of the boys was missing. He made inquiries and was told that the boy was a gambler: he had sold the new clothes and used the money for gambling.
The Bishop went out in quest of the boy, found him, and got him another pair of clothes. The boy attended the Sunday Class for the new two or three week, but again disappeared.
The Bishop found that the boy had once again sold his clothes and gambled away the money.
Yet again, the Bishop went up to the boy, met him in love, spoke to him with tenderness. He said to him: "Forget what has happened. Take these new clothes, and be regular in your attendance at the Sunday Class."
This was repeated thirteen times. Thirteen times, the boy sold the clothes, but the Bishop's patience was not tired. The love of the Bishop transformed the boy and made him new. The Bishop concluded his lecture with the words: "I know this is true, because I was the boy!" It is love which reclaims. It is love which transforms. Sermons or lectures do not touch the hearts of the people: the power of love does.
Story of Mary Magdalene
The story of Mary Magdalene is well known. One day, they bring her to Jesus and say to him: "Master, we have caught her red-handed. Permit us to stone her to death."
Jesus looks at Mary and then at her accusers and says to them: "Let him who has never sinned cast the first stone!"
One by one, the accusers slink away. Jesus is left alone with Mary. He says to her: "Thy sins are forgiven thee! Go and sin no more!"
According to an Eastern tradition, Jesus builds a cottage for Mary and says to her: "Dwell in the cottage and repeat the Name of God. Your food will reach you everyday." Mary's life was transformed: she became a saint.
Sinner today, saint tomorrow
How true are the words of Sadhu Vaswani: "Does sin pursue thee? Be not disheartened. In sin, too, is the sinless one. The Lord pursues thee. And when the evil of glamour will go, thou wilt know that, wading through sin, thy spiritual strength has grown greater and thy spiritual vision is keener than before."
The sinner of today may be a saint of tomorrow. Therefore, let us not look down upon anyone, nor regard anyone with contempt. How true it is, that every sinner has a future, even as every saint has a past.
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