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A Light to the Nations

By Fr. Tom Rouse

Navala Village in Fiji

I remember many years ago, around 1979, I was up in the village of Navala, in the parish of Ba, Fiji. In those days, the village had a population of around 600, almost all Catholics. I went there on the fourth Sunday of the month. I would normally go up on Friday or Saturday and hear confessions before Sunday Mass. In those days, virtually everybody over the age of 10 or 11 went to confession. This particular Saturday afternoon I had been listening to people’s confessions for something like four hours, and I was exhausted. So, I asked the remaining group to please allow me time for a break.

Inside a confessionalI went down to the village and virtually collapsed in the house of the tui rara or “gatekeeper.” He sent word for the healer, a very old and blind man who was led up to the gatekeeper’s house by a young boy. He entered the house and sat down beside me. I had taken my shirt off, and the boy helped the old man to find my back. The old man then proceeded to massage me, only with his right hand, by means of a gentle bumping method. Well, I tell you, that man had powerful mana. His hands were magic. After only an hour of this treatment, I felt like I had just emerged from a deep sleep and felt fresh and ready to get back into action.

I remember this old man in the light of the gospel from John 1:29-34, where John the Baptist points out Jesus to his disciples, this old man was, for me, like the lamb of God. In the light of the hurricane lamp, as I expressed my thanks, I saw an old man who was empowered by the Spirit. Despite his blindness, he was also like “a light to the nations” to use the expression from Isaiah 49:3,5-6. He brought healing and life to people, regardless of their race, color or religion. I think he did a better job than I did in absolving people of their sins. I will never forget this old blind man from the hills. He taught me what it meant to be a missionary because he constantly reminds me that we are all missionaries with diverse gifts or mana that enables us to be a “light to the nations.” 

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