A Victim Bares His Soul…

A Victim Bares His Soul… by Fr. Rolando V. De La Rosa

“Real life caught up with me in an unexpected way. The insidious pleasures I derived from watching disaster movies gave way to true-to-life horrors brought about by the recent deluge. Like many others, I was totally unprepared when the waters suddenly rose and engulfed my home.

Suddenly my comfortable life was jolted by the possibility of death and losing everything I hold dear.“I was stranded for hours on the rooftop waiting for rescue that did not come.

When the flood reached the roof, I decided to jump into the muddy water and swam desperately for dear life. A group of fellow refugee helped me aboard a makeshift raft drifting aimlessly in the raging current.

For a while I felt safe, but the raft was later sucked into a vortex and we found ourselves swirling together with garbage and human waste.“How humiliating to be vulnerable is this way: Feeling betrayed by my hard-earned resources that proved useless in time of dire necessity.

Those that I have bought or acquired, and kept as my treasures could hardly keep me alive. I had several cell phones but when the flood came, all of these were without signal, my telephones were without dial tone, faucets spouted dirty water, electric bulbs did not light, credit cards and cash could not buy me a lifeline, my big house could not provide me shelter.

They say when death is imminent, the past whizzes by our consciousness like a movie in a fast forward mode. I saw myself twenty years earlier working almost 24/7 to become financially stable, build a comfortable house, buy cars and furniture, hoard stocks, bonds, and other monetary instruments for the future, and make myself respectable.

Now, twenty years later, all I have is this forlorn raft on which I huddle with others as we fight to survive. “When I was younger, I dreamt of a dignified existence and a more dignified exit. I never thought of dying helpless and hopeless.

I asked myself: ‘When they find my bloated body, will my relatives recognize me? Will they even weep or mourn for me?

I can tolerate being shot for a cause or killed for a noble purpose. But to die in a filthy mash of mud and human waste is simply intolerable. I wanted to shout: ‘This is not fair!’

This thought pierced my heart deeply because I know my suffering is undeserved. “As usual, when there is no one around to blame, I hurled my invectives at God.

Like Job afflicted with sores from head to foot, I voicelessly shouted at Him: ‘Why me? It would have been better if I were not born. I curse the day when I left my mother’s womb.”  But Job was luckier because God answered him. All I got was a deafening, painful silence.

After the deluge, and after spending a few days in an overcrowded rescue center, I came back to my house (or what remained of it). The expanse of destruction that I saw equalled the emotional ruin within me. My house is still there, but an eloquent testimony to the sense of futility that engulfed me.

A passage in the Letter of St. Paul pricked me: ‘Everything we possess is destined to futility…’ (Romans 8:20).

Maybe St. Paul was telling me that destruction and decay are in the nature of all things. Everything that is born eventually dies. Every flower that blooms soon fades. All our priced possessions will disappear. We are doomed to extinction.

My sense of desperation overwhelmed me.

As I sat on my once luxuriously upholstered sofa, I wept over my fate. I’m back to zero.  I will have to begin again.   Is this my destiny?

“I was still sulking when a neighbor, almost covered with mud, appeared on the door and asked: “Do you want me to help? Have you eaten? My wife prepared a meal. It is not much, but you can join us.”

In the past, I did not even bother to know his name. But there he was, a flood victim like me, his house and belongings as badly damaged as mine, but he offered me help. I wept all the more, pitying myself for being so stupid.

Face to face with authentic human kindness, I realized that I have worked too hard for things that matter too little. I treasured things more than human relationship. I prioritized getting rich more than the joys of friendship, sharing, and love.

The surge of hope elicited by my neighbor’s kind gesture brought to mind the second part of the same passage in St. Paul’s letter: “Everything we possess is destined to futility because God wants us to place our hope not on any created thing, but solely on Him. (Romans 8:20)”

It is difficult to make an act of faith in the midst of desolation. My mind says God allowed this flood to happen to remind us that placing our hopes on earthly things will inextricably bind ourselves to futility and ruin; while placing our hopes on God allows us to experience the glorious freedom that befits His children.“But I know this is easier said than done.

Faith in God does not always come as an exhilarating feeling of triumph, joy, and sense of well-being. Sometimes it comes as a bitter pill. I thank God for my neighbor who made it easier for me to swallow this bitter pill.”

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