When I first arrived in Ecuador to begin my life on mission I was shocked at the level of poverty there. I was appointed to the very large parish of the Good Shepherd two hours west of Guaraquil. I was numb as I drove around the parish for the first time and saw the scale of the hunger, and people living in tiny shacks which were destroyed when the rains came. As I began in the parish I knew we had to begin food programmes to feed the poor and the starving people, and eventually let them become self-sufficient, as we got them started in little businesses and projects.
The people were so poor and yet from the very beginning I could see they were full of joy, so very happy and radiant. I could not comprehend how they were always smiling and joyful in the midst of the horrific conditions they lived in. One day my curiosity got the better of me and as I walked along the dirt roads of the parish I saw Silverio, a happily married man with six children/teenagers, and as always he was beaming and smiling. I asked him why in the midst of indescribable poverty he was always happy, joyful and had a radiant smile on his face? He looked at me as if to say are you stupid, do you not get it and he said “how could I not be happy and joyful, I have Jesus as my best friend. He is my everything and I cannot stop praising God, singing and dancing at the precious joy of having Jesus as my most intimate friend, my most beautiful treasure and a genuine and true companion for my journey through life. We are all full of joy here in this parish even though we are very poor, because we have Jesus in our hearts and nothing in this world could compare with that amazing privilege.”
As I left Silverio that day my eyes were opened and I began to realise what an indescribable joy it is to have Jesus. I began to smile and be full of joy too because I realised I was a spiritual millionaire when I had Jesus in my heart as my best friend. As Christians, as Catholics are we beaming and radiant with the joy of having Jesus as our best friend?
Written by Fr. John Keane