Get up!

It has been nearly a year since I left the region of Italy and the fraternity with the Gypsies, where I lived for 10 years. I returned to Lebanon. I was happy to come back in order to share with my people the difficult reality my country has been plunged into for years now. At the beginning I felt like a stranger in my own country: it had been so disfigured I didn’t recognize it. Life is hard, and tiring. All we can do is wait…and in the midst of the waiting, there’s a lot of hope, there are a lot of desires…along with anguish, fear, and the question on everyone’s mind: “What will the future hold for us? How will we be able to go on?”

Doing anything takes a lot of time. Going shopping means running from store to store in search of prices you can afford, and that’s if you can find a store that even has what you need. Medicines are often impossible to find. Quite a few young people are emigrating because there are no jobs. Many sick people die for lack of medicines, or because the cost of going to a hospital is out of reach. Sometimes the situation is hopeless. We feel that it will be impossible to get back the lost time. In the face of all this, I feel within me the risk of closing in on myself and looking upon the other person as an enemy. I feel the temptation to stridently defend my own political viewpoint, the temptation to see myself as simply a victim of the crisis in my country…

In this darkest of times I found mysef meditating on the Biblical story of the raising of Lazarus, in John’s Gospel. I discovered there that at one moment Jesus himself didn’t fully understand what awaited him, that he was preparing for an unknown future. This discovery was a great source of consolation.

Lazarus is sick. His sisters send Jesus a message: “Lord, your friend is ill.” Jesus answers: “This sickness will not lead to death, it is for God’s glory.”

In the light of Jesus’s love, I was able to look at the past ten years of my life, and the future of the Little Sisters in Lebanon, in a new way. It is only love that can give life and support, because only love gives trust, solidarity, faith, hope and patience to go through death and attain true Life.

Thanks to Jesus, I discovered that love enables us to remain close to those who are suffering.

That’s what I live with Mariam, a friend and co-worker from the factory. Her mother died of covid, at only 52, leaving Mariam alone with her father. I realized it was not me giving her support, but her endlessly giving me hope. Mariam is only 20, and in the midst of death she is able to find life. Despite her suffering she is always smiling, she is patient, loving, and faithful to her humdrum daily work.

In front of his friend’s grave, Jesus asks those around him to remove the stone from the tomb, and after crying, “Lazarus, come out!” he asks that he be unbound so that he can come out freely.

This shows me how much we need others to help us find a solution to “our crises.” I was going home to the fraternity of Beirut from a rather far-flung corner of the city, and I didn’t have enough money to pay for a taxi (since the price changes every day!) I had decided to go on foot. A first taxi stopped, and I turned it down, a little later a second one arrived, and again I said no. And then the driver said to me, “Sister, I don’t want money, I want to take you where you’re going so we can pray a rosary together.” I got into his car and discovered he was at that moment saying the rosary while listening to “Radio Maria.” Once I was in he simply asked, “Where are you going?” When we arrived at the house, I tried at least to offer him the little money I had in my pocket. He refused it, saying “Sister, I only ask that you pray for my wife: she’s gone into a serious depression because of the difficult economic situation. She beats the children violently. Would you please pray with me that peace returns to my home and that the Lord puts back the love and tenderness for our children.”

I was deeply moved by that man: he was looking for someone who could break his wife’s chains. His faith in God, his incessant prayer—which he didn’t stop even while he was working—were a great light in my life.

No, what I’m living is not lost time, nor is it empty. Rather, it’s a time full of respect and sharing. I need the other, and the other needs me. These little experiences have transformed what seemed a dead end into an open road calling me to love and solidarity.

After four days in the tomb, Lazarus was stinking, as his sister Martha reminds us. However, Jesus had the courage to draw close to the tomb and call him. This is what will happen to Lebanon: it has been asleep for years, but its heart is awake, it’s waiting for the voice of the Lord, who will say “Get up and come out!” Rania