“Into the Darkness”
“After he took the morsel, Satan entered into him…. And he left at once. It was night.” John 13: 27
Mission in the Cloud. Last night after I got “home from work” around 6:30, the missionary normally in the back of the church at this time of year, and the other missionary, went for a long walk. We prayed the rosary and Memorare for our mission souls on our list this week, a decade for each. And then we reflected on the next day’s gospel reading, Matthew’s version of the two betrayals. One of the betrayers, Peter, never lost his focus on the Lord, even in his sin, and came back to be reconciled, and eventually to lead the Church. The other, Judas, absorbed in his own sense of pride, perhaps rationalizing his sin, leaves and never comes back. John’s version of the story, last night’s walk, kept ringing in my ears. “He left at once. It was night.”
The soul we pray for on decade three, I know only as “the lost Frenchman.” Although this story is perhaps the shortest of all the stories in The Missionary of Wall Street, I find myself coming back to it again and again when I give talks about the mission. It epitomizes what the mission is all about for the missionaries: helping the Lord in the epoch battle of light and darkness by bringing back souls that are lost, that have “left at once… into the night.” Here’s the story if you don’t remember it:
Corner of Spring and Mulberry, border of Little Italy, Advent, 2011. Under a streetlamp in SoHo, a missionary stands alone as the night grows ever colder and darker. A group of French tourists strolls by. “Surely I’ve got some Catholics here! Why not visit the cathedral? It’s just three blocks away!” A person within the group declares firmly, “We are not Catholic!” By now, the tidal forces of the little group have pulled the spokesperson to the edge of the circle of light under the lamppost. In moments, he will be lost in the darkness. Barely time here for one last plea. Turning towards the darkening group, the missionary cries, “Not Catholic? Aren’t all French people Catholic? What are you then?” Quickly, almost instinctively, comes back the retort. “We are nothing.” As he speaks these words, he and the missionary lock eyes, both pondering this answer’s true meaning. And then, just like that, the young man from France slips from his hands, into the cold darkness….
What is troubling about this story, what bothers me to this day, is that the missionary, standing in the light, didn’t have the courage that night to pursue the lost Frenchman into the darkness. In later chapters of the story, and the mission, the missionaries would learn to do this. But that night, early on in the mission, the missionary didn’t. The Frenchman was lost.
All of us have a lost Frenchman in our lives, the soul we can literally see, slipping away into the darkness. Too often, we let that soul go. “He has to make his own decisions.” “I did my best. Now it’s up to her.” “He’s an adult now.” “Clearly, that person is just not interested. She’ll find her own path.” You get it. But how often do we tell ourselves that, when in reality, what really is motivating us is the fear of walking with that person into the darkness, to try to bring them home. How often do we fail to trust the Lord, that he will accompany us into the night, show us and our new soulmate the road back home?
Last night, I reflected on Judas. There’s a little of him in all of us. And I reflected on the Apostles. They believed in the Lord, They loved Him. But they were still afraid, despite his admonitions to the contrary. They had not yet had their Pentecost, their Holy Spirit moment. And none of them got up from that table to pursue Judas into the darkness, to try one last time to bring him home to Jesus. Instead, they left their brother to Satan, to an eternal darkness.
There’s a Judas in all of us, and there is a Peter. We need to always be missionaries, on the streets of SoHo, at home with family, in the Cloud. We need the right friends who will always pick us up, and drag us back to God when we fall into the darkness. And as Apostles, as missionaries, we need, always, always, always, to be stay to the Lord, to trust Him, and to ask Him for the grace and courage to dash out into the night to bring our Judas home.
A missionary April 8, 2020