About 10 days ago, gunmen broke into a home for the elderly in Yemen. This hardly qualifies as news in a country or a region where unspeakable horror is inflicted on a suffering people on a daily basis. Four nuns of the Sisters of Charity, along with other Christian workers who were catering to the needs of the patients, were slaughtered in cold blood. Our Holy Father called the act diabolical. Evil, as the Gospel reminds us, is not simply an external act but comes from the perversion of the human heart. About two weeks ago, a family of three were on a flight home to Phoenix from Bellingham, Washington. They had been visiting relatives as was one of the final wishes of the father, who is suffering from terminal cancer. Giovanni, who is seven years of age, started to break out in hives because they discovered there was a dog on the plane and perhaps, because of the added stress of his father’s illness, he had an adverse reaction. When notified by the family, one of the flight attendants smirked and said, “There are often animals on flights.” To cut a long story short, the family was escorted off the plane to some applause from people in the back. They were accommodated on another flight, are not seeking any kind of compensation and were not the first to draw attention to this story. “My dad’s sick with Stage IV throat cancer,” Giovanni said. “And that made me really sadder when I was already sad. I’m sad this has to be a memory with my dad.” Now of course, there is nothing to imply that the people applauding are mean and evil people or knew that Giovanni’s father is dying. But kindness and compassion in this season of Lent and year of Mercy is not based on human knowledge alone, but when the heart of the believer is synchronized in God. No one debates that pets bring comfort to the elderly, those who live alone or to families and single folks. But, that is a far cry from “They are less of a bother than children,” or if they receive better attention than the homeless! My spirituality of Lent is and should be under permanent scrutiny. When the fish fry is finished, red wine is back on the dinner menu and I no longer have to check my daily Lenten challenge, wherein lies my Christian heart? Otherwise, the applause may not be from the back of the plane but final judgement on the human heart. After all, unlike Paul Harvey, if my conscience and Christian heart are in the right place, I do not need to know the rest of the story.

God Bless, Fr. John