While on a skiing holiday, a young man became separated from his party and spent three days in below-zero weather. He managed to survive, but he suffered extensive damage to his feet. So severe was the frostbite and gangrene that doctors wanted to amputate his right foot but the young man flatly refused.
Gradually his condition became extremely critical as the toxins from his injured foot began to flood his body. His family and friends were desperate, but he would not be moved. He would keep his foot.
The situation came to a head one evening when a team of surgeons reviewed his most recent lab results and assessed his worsening condition. Finally, his fiancée, overwhelmed by the possibility of her beloved’s death, could take it no more. Weeping, she tore his engagement ring off her finger and thrust it onto the swollen black toe of his right foot.
“I hate this damn foot,” she sobbed. “If you want this foot so much, why don’t you marry it? You’re going to have to choose, you can’t have us both.”
The small bright diamond, surrounded by the black and rotting tissues of his foot, sparkled with life.
The young man said nothing and closed his weary eyes.
The next day, he scheduled the surgery.
[Adapted from Kitchen Table Wisdom by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.]
The young man later said his fiancée’s dramatic gesture had helped him see that he was more attached to keeping his foot than he was committed to life. He had been married to his foot.
The unsettling images Jesus articulates in today's Gospel confront us with the reality that the things we are “married” to – our careers, our portfolios, our bodies, our statues – will one day be no more and that our separation from them will be bitter indeed.
Christ calls us to embrace, not the things of the body but of the soul, not the things of the world but the things of God: the lasting, eternal treasures of love and mercy, the joy that comes only from selfless giving, the satisfaction that comes from lifting up the hopes and dreams of others.
– Dr John Frauenfelder, CSO Broken Bay