Word Magazine June 1960 Page 3
THE RIDDLE OF LIFE AND HOW TO SOLVE IT
By Very Rev. Father Michael Baroudy
Life to all of us is something of a riddle, a mystery. We came into the world as infants, mere babies. Our bodies are subject to physical laws. Biologically speaking, we develop from one stage to another. We are trained by our parents to walk, talk, read and write, learn a trade or profession by which we earn our livelihood. We find ourselves in a world of human beings who, like ourselves, are subject to infirmities and fears. We struggle constantly to attain some degree of economic security, and by the time we are financially independent, we discover that the goal toward which we have striven did not accord us the satisfaction we desired: and so we become disillusioned, we are still dissatisfied. Besides, old age has by now crept upon us, we are in the evening of life and are no nearer the solution of life’s riddle. We are in sight of the place called, “The Point of no Return,” where millions of people from every walk of life have gone before us. “Life is so uncertain, and death is so certain,” we are reminded every day. How true! But the tragedy of it is that we don’t try to do anything about it.
Well, how may the riddle of life be solved? The riddle of life can never, will never be solved save by realizing first, that God is the Supreme Ruler of this universe, and that, as His offsprings, we owe Him allegiance. This is essential if we are to fulfill the Divine purpose and plan for our being here. Otherwise, life does not make sense, has no meaning. If we think that we are here to gratify our animal instincts, apart from the gratifications which come by the realization that we are God’s offspring, and as such we are to accord to Him a central place in our lives, then we are of all men most miserable, we are living in a fool’s paradise.
Sacred and secular histories are a living testimony that men find themselves when God is given recognition by them, and that without Him all is chaos and confusion.
I read with consuming interest recently how in this country the idea of seeking God’s guidance is taking great hold upon the thinking of our leaders. The President calls many of the nation’s leaders from time to time into a combination of a breakfast and prayer meeting where one of these leaders present stresses the need for God, and to give to Him a prominent place in the life of the nation.
We have been living under great tension, fear, and a sense of inadequacy because of the present political upheaval in our world. We are discovering that there is no security in anything of material nature, wealth, technical knowledge. With all our tremendous mass production, our great attainments in every field of endeavor, conditions throughout the world are worsening. We are as insecure now as we have ever been despite our great defense system, and our knowledge of modern warfare. Our security lies not in physical or technical strength, but in our moral strength, in giving proper recognition to the fact that God is the Supreme Ruler of our world and as such He should be given top priority in the affairs of our nation, our homes, our social and economic lives.
While darkness seems to become thicker and the nations of the world are in the process of committing moral bankruptcy and self-destruction; God’s figure looms larger; He is not through with us, and He shall never leave us nor forsake us, if we but return to Him wholeheartedly, confessing our sins and shortcomings.
Second, we can further solve the riddle of life by realizing that all human beings are God’s offspring, stem from the same source, and, therefore are our brothers, whose duties are to maintain cordial relationships with all races and classes. Life’s riddle is triangular, having three sides; to ignore any of them is to break the chain. If the Bible is a book that contains the consensus of the world’s wisdom, and we have no doubt of that, it teaches us that God, your brother and yourself must live in perfect accord. Christ breathed the same undeniable truth. By word of mouth, as well as by example. Jesus never lost sight of that fact. That these three-sided principles are inseparable was Christ’s supreme revelation. To say that you love God and that you believe in Him and then to be contemptuous, disdainful of your fellow human beings, or even to hate or bear malice with regard to someone, is to find yourself out of bounds with life’s higher values. You are practicing a self-defeating principle, you are on the opposite side of a law, without which life is meaningless, unendurable, impossible.
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity,” said the inspired Sacred Writer. Unity among the world’s various nations is the most desired thing of humanity, but strange as it may seem we are destitute of it. Peace, unity and harmony cannot he attained by mere wishful thinking. They can be attained by breathing Christ’s spirit, embodying his precepts, living sacrificially. They are the product of Christian character, the outcome of a life of faith, love, sympathy, understanding and good will. If we are to dwell together in unity in our families — social, national and international groups — we must be willing to pay the price, to show ourselves friendly. Our unwillingness to resolve our differences in a peaceful way, our lack of vision in drawing the line between races and nationalities has intensified our human differences and divided our world into several worlds.
Christ, in His Sermon on the Mount, in which we find the blueprint for living well-rounded, God-honoring, God-glorifying lives, said, “If you bring your bread to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your bread at the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
When any of us bring the “bread” to the priest, on behalf of himself or another, he thereby wishes to be remembered before the Throne of God and in the Kingdom of God. But the acceptance of the gift will depend upon whether or not the offerer has maintained right relationships with his neighbor, that is, with his fellow human beings.
Professor P. A. Sarokin of Harvard, looking at our war-cursed world, has concluded that the only way out is through “love as a dynamic force effectively transforming individuals, ennobling social institutions, inspiring culture and making the whole world a warm, friendly and beautiful cosmos.”
Instead of fretting about what happens in Washington, London, Paris or behind the “Iron Curtain,” each of us should practice the art of being a good neighbor where we are. We cannot do much about changing a President, dictator, or Prime Minister, but we can change ourselves and those around us. We can let love permeate all our relationships on Main Street.
One of the enemies to our usefulness as Christians is our blindness to opportunity for service two houses down the street, or even next door. We aren’t ready to go “where you want me to go,” until we tackle the unfinished business right where we now are.
For twenty years Archie Skinner has had a newsstand on a busy city corner. Though he is a cerebral palsy cripple, he has done business with such grace and consideration that on his thirty-ninth birthday the mayor came out to Archie’s corner and presented him with a letter. It read in part:
“The courteous and considerate way you have helped the blind and the lame to cross the busy street — where you sell your newspapers, has been a heart-warming example to all — Your own handicap has only served to deepen the kindness and the thoughtfulness you have shown for others — You have made Detroiters who have no such handicaps pause and reflect on whether they are discharging their duties to their fellow citizens in the way they should — Detroit would be a better city if all its citizens were following your example.”
The times in which we live call not so much for people with extraordinary abilities as for people with ordinary abilities consecrated to the service of God and man.
Is it true that that you do not live to yourself? Perhaps, it is easier for us to see the impossibility of a city dweller’s living to himself, for his food must come away from the city, and every day he shares transportation conveniences with thousands of others. But if one is in the open spaces of America — Oklahoma perhaps — does it still hold true?
Some years ago the following statement occurred in an Oklahoma newspaper, “The average Oklahoma farmer gets up at the alarm of a Connecticut clock; buttons his Chicago suspenders to his Detroit overalls; washes his face with Cincinnati soap in a Pennsylvania pan; sits down to a Grand Rapids table; eats Chicago meat and Minnesota flour, cooked on a Sears-Roebuck stove; puts a New York bridle upon a Missouri mule, fed with California alfalfa; and ploughs a farm covered by a Vermont mortgage, with an Illinois plow. . .“ etc.
How forceful this emphasizes our dependence upon others! And how important that we give other people their rightful places in our thinking!
PRAYER: O GOD, KEEP US EVER MINDFUL OF THE JOYS AND BLESSINGS WHICH COME TO US FROM OTHERS. MAKE US ALWAYS EAGER TO DO OUR SHARE OF THE WORLD’S WORK BECAUSE SO MANY OTHERS SO FREELY AND GENEROUSLY CONTRIBUTE TO US. AMEN…