The Poor Man

It was a mineral winter of oil-gray trees and aluminum clouds. The poor man clutched his beads to pray. The roof and walls of his apartment were cracked. One sink would hardly drain. The heating never worked. Rust and mold reigned. No amount of sweeping kept the dust at bay. Mourning fourteen lost souls, burdened with debt, exhausted and physically broken from thirty years of trauma and labour, he had few words to describe his pain. On the one hand, he knew his misfortunes were the workmanship of his sins. On the other hand, every good deed and work of wisdom seemed to have faded, to have vanished like a mirage. In his desperation, the poor man prayed for some temporal relief, some grace to escape his misery. Then, in a fury, he shook his fist at heaven and complained about the abuse and injustice he had received. Weeping, he immediately asked for forgiveness for possibly blaspheming or being ungrateful. Only seconds later, he was assailed with a new form of guilt, for it seemed arrogant to imagine himself capable of anything but a miserable, blasphemous outburst, and arrogant to ask for what he did not deserve, even if he could not define what it was that he thought he deserved. It now remained for him to find out which guilt was the right one, and whether grace might relieve his confusion.

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