Word Magazine December 1971 Page 9
AN ATOM FOR CHRISTMAS AND EVERY DAY
A CHRISTMAS SERMON by FATHER THEODORE E. ZITON
We are living in hard times. If we were disappointed in the peace and rehabilitation of nations that followed World War I, we can well be alarmed at the situation that prevails after World War II. After all, only an Armistice ended the first, and no doubt we were too presumptuous in thinking that peace had come to the end at the second because there followed “Korea” and now “Viet-Nam.”
The last half century has seen a lot of changes in the religious, political and social life of all nations of the world. Even our wars have lowered their ethical standards. Savage attacks on neighboring countries without warning or possible justification in conscience have been the order of this new day. Women are treated as they were in the old pagan centuries, children are left to starve, art is destroyed and culture is no longer valued. God is not feared any more and His temples are given no respect. And as for our neighbor, the word has lost its meaning. We loot his possessions, we blast his reputation and, if it suits our purpose, we purge his nation, his race and his civilization.
Now, this is indeed a dismal picture of the world in which we live. It can’t be a mere question of our lot or circumstances. There must be some reason and explanation for it. Such a predicament, so many evils, could not deluge the whole world at the same time unless some common force was universally causing and motivating it. The situation is simply the inevitable and natural consequence of man’s new plan; that is, trying to get along without God and His law. We have complicated our system of living because we have tried to eliminate the ONE Who could make it run smoothly, so simply. Man has tried to settle world problems with atomic and hydrogen bombs when all that was needed was good will and understanding of man’s needs.
Man’s belief in his own self— sufficiency is very widespread today. So many claim that no special institutions, no strict moral discipline, no external authority and no Divine accountability are necessary to their progress, that man has adopted the belief that his happiness and well-being would result from the freedom of doing whatever he wanted without any external restrictions. Instead of being proud of his creation in the image and likeness of God, endowed with intelligence and free will, man aspires to be his own creator. Just as generations ago, Holy Scriptures tell us, men tried to reach Heaven by a structure of brick and mortar and failed because a confusion of tongues possessed them, so too, men today will never agree on the terms of world peace and prosperity if only worldly issues are considered and God is left out of the plans.
So what is the answer to the world crisis? We are exhausted from asking questions and it is time that we busy ourselves with the more important affair of looking for the answers. Believers, the world over, stand by the opinion that the Christian Gospel has in itself all that the world needs. On the other band, militarists and materialists, disregarding the supernatural, confine their hopes to arms and their faith to atom and hydrogen bombs. These are fashionable, of course, for we areliving in a so-called Atomic Age. We expect a lot from the atom, and it does seem strange for a world with the colossal, the stupendous, the grandiose at its command, to be so ready to worship at the new scientific shrine of the little atom.
And, speaking of atoms, there is one little ATOM that the world seems to have forgotten, at least in practice for a lot of people, and that is the little Atom that came down from Heaven more than nineteen hundred years ago on Christmas night. Like the atomic power of our scientific discovery, the Christ Child is infinite power in small space. The full force of that “atomic” Christ Child, given full say and sway in the world, could revolutionize it and cure it of all its ills and woes.
Now there are two great needs which people of every age always have. Man needs, on the one hand, a restraining influence which will save him from becoming small and superficial. And, on the other hand, he needs a key to the tangle of human relationships. Something that will solve the old, old problem of people living together in brotherly love. It would seem that the message of the Gospel is the only thing that could fill these requirements. Accept Christ, accept the Christ Child and His teachings in the Spirit which is called Holy. Then and only then will there be peace in the world.
Our scientific and mechanical progress is amazing. It is astounding the triumph over material things we have lived to see. But they have their limitation. Someone has said about science: “It knows a little about everything, but it cannot tell you the whole truth about anything.” Moreover, what it does tell us is not always about the things that matter most. Maybe, too, we are just not sufficiently grown up to use all modern scientific findings. There are many things in life, like the atom and hydrogen bomb, we just can’t handle—yet.
Man needs moral and spiritual power to enable him to control the instruments he has discovered. It’s no use looking in the New Testament for a program of Atomic Control, unless we are ready to accept the principles of good moral behaviour. Christ never gave people a program without at the same time giving them the principles to uphold it. Interest in the material things of life, supremacy of the spiritual: that is the goal. How to combine the two in rightful proportion? That IS the secret of man’s happiness.
The world is groping for that very secret, for that which will bridge the gulf, for that which will bring the nations of the universe into some kind of fraternal bond of law and order and peaceful reconstruction, something that will lift men away from economic selfishness and aggressive nationalism. In a word, we are looking for a peaceful world, a world in which all men can find the means of livelihood and the right to the pursuit of happiness.
It is a colossal task. When all is said and done, the greatest obstacles for most men are found in themselves, that is their own personal conduct. We easily blame the faith, religion, fate or our circumstances, when in reality the causes of our failure lie within ourselves. For instance, we speak of the influence of heredity on character, of education and surroundings on our attitudes towards life, of friends and associates on our behaviour. These cannot absolve us from personal responsibility, but they surely modify it. And it’s not enough for men to recognize their weaknesses or find outside of themselves the contributing causes. They must sincerely amend their ways by serious effort to improve.
A new era is beginning. People and leaders are trying to find solutions for economic ills. World conferences, study groups, investigations, social experiments, new kinds of human living, all these and hosts of others are being employed to find a good answer and a remedy for a sick world. And here comes Christmas: a yearly reminder and a measure and a message of peace to the world. Christ came with a program for world harmony. History has shown us that the more closely we have adhered to it, the happier we were; the further we strayed, the more miserable we became.
Our future, and the future stability of world conditions, depend on the Christian form of civilization. God’s words, “A little child shall lead them” are timely and imperative today for those who are settling the destiny of nations. We must accept the Christ Child or be ready for our doom. And so here’s Christmas and the Christ Child . . . a power all wrapped in swaddling clothes. An ATOM FOR CHRISTMAS AND EVERY DAY — 1970. •