In sorrow, I am weakened to my knees.
The weight of deceit is crushing.
I am not a good sufferer.
I am paralyzed, not knowing how to proceed from here.
Suddenly, a whisper comes from behind...
He shuffles down the aisle, swishing the tile like sandpaper.
His aged body dangles from the weight of his shoulders and nothing moves but his feet.
I glance up to see who has kept me company in silence.
Recognizing this man from daily Mass and Veteran's Day events, I know that he's a soldier.
His focus is the altar, Christ present, and Christ on the Cross.
Those eyes...He teaches me.
As he passes by, I wonder what his story is.
Was he a husband and father?
What about his military service?
Who has he fought for?
Was he courageous?
I know he's alone.
How does he do it at his age?
He maintains a natural smile that upholds his unwavering eyes.
Still focused...He teaches me.
Finally making it to the altar,
he begins a slow descent, lowering his broken body to kneel. He could have just stood up. It would have been easier.
He doesn't take the easy way out.
There's no one around but me and God.
Eyes still focused, holding that smile...He teaches me.
I watch as this man suffers.
His body winces in pain but he perseveres with kneeling.
His heart is steadfast in reaching his goal, offering himself completely, there at the foot of the Cross.
Not an ounce of his suffering body is seen in his eyes, still fixed on the Lord of heavenly hosts...He teaches me.
Suddenly, I'm no longer paralyzed,
I'm inspired for the journey ahead.
Together with my soldier-friend, I gaze up at the same Lord and the same Cross that resurrects us all from our suffering.
This time, there are two of us smiling through pain.
Faith marches on, there in the silent womb of the church.
From the light of an altar in front of us both,
Hearts open wide, eyes of the soul in focus...
He taught us well.