Word Magazine February 1961 Page 6/18
A TASTE OF GOOD LIVING
By Very Rev. Father Michael Baroudy
Living in this day and time is enjoyable because on this earth we are surrounded with comfort and pleasure-producing gadgets. Throughout all the stages of history, man has striven to invent all kinds of machines and timesaving devices to the end that living would be enjoyed. We can name hundreds of items in use today by man which were unknown half a century ago. It is undeniably true that these articles have contributed immeasurably to man’s material well-being and pleasure: the radio, the television, automobile, the telephone and airplane, to name just a few of these articles. But are we actually happier than our forbears to whom those articles were practically unknown? Are our lives more peaceful than theirs? Do we enjoy the peace of mind that they have enjoyed? What is actually wrong with our present-day generation?
I vividly remember a grandfather of mine who lived to be ninety-five and who was a living symbol of contentment and peace. He was a retired contractor who would gather all his grandchildren around him, play games with them and sing for them. We had no movies, television, radios or automobiles then. Life was simple but it was full of happiness. Looking upon those days long ago produces in me a sense of tenderness, cherished memories, treasured thoughts that have lived in me throughout life. When I make comparison between living then and living today, I feel inclined to ask, why aren’t we that happy? Has prosperity brought about a change for the worse? What really is our concept of happiness and consideration in the matter of good living?
The answer may be found in man’s viewpoint as to what he considers good living. I honestly believe that happiness cannot be bought: it should be rather practiced. Your happiness and mine do not depend upon the accumulation of things, but rather materially depends on our right appraisal of life. Let me illustrate this by saying that to some of us the acquisition of material wealth is the highest taste of good living. Material prosperity brings with it a sense of security, freedom from want. This is good as far as it goes but it does not go far enough. To others spending money and chasing the rainbow of lustful pleasure is a taste of good living. To still others, it is to be any one of a dozen other matters, politically prominent, socially great, educationally excellent. All these have their places but by themselves won’t produce that inward happiness which is the grant of God and the lot of Godly people.
Here is how the sacred writer relates his experience in the matter of good living. “O taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the man that trusteth in Him.”
This statement expresses one of the most precious experiences of life, beside which everything is trivial and insignificant. As a matter of fact, it is an amazing statement. Is it possible for a man to have a taste of God’s goodness? How can that be done? Well, to have an experience of that character one must be in harmony with the Divine plans and purposes. We are all by nature the enemies of God. We plan our lives along lines that run counter to the will of God. The things of this world have such a charm for us that God’s claim upon our lives has been forgotten. We take part and become a party to matters which we know are wrong. This is the case because our scale of values and emphasis is on the wrong side of life. Then something happens. Life hits us in the face, and hits hard in more ways than one. Then the disillusionment comes. The things behind which we sought security and leaned so heavily upon, proved to be untrustworthy. We discover at this stage of our lives that we have been fools. We find then and there that we have left out of our lives — life’s most essential matter. The religion which we have learned at our mothers’ knees must be taken out of moth balls, so to speak, and put into everyday practice. The God whom we have forgotten and slighted for so long should be sought after and enthroned in our hearts.
One of the greatest of all lessons which most of us fail to learn is that none of us can go it alone. We humans are created dependent in the sense that at no time of our lives should we forget to seek God’s guidance. When a person sets out to honor God and make Him the Supreme Ruler of his life, he feels that he has acquired an uncanny power, the “plus element.” He becomes aware of a Force which influences his whole life for good. When a person, after a bitter experience, discovers that everybody and everything has failed him and in desperation, as ever so often happens, turns to the Source of security and blessings, he becomes by virtue of that fact, equal for anything, a monarch as it were, a conqueror, one who lives above and beyond the world’s pulls, temptations and pitfalls.
Job is a vivid example of what tasting and knowing that the Lord is good should mean. While such an experience gives a person the highest and the most gratifying feeling, being aware of one’s identity with God and His cause, yet it is not free from trouble. If any man in all history had a reason to think that God had let him down and forgotten him, it was Job. Job was a man noted for his piety throughout the breadth and the length of his country. His was an exemplary life. Yet the trouble he endured was enough to crush the strongest of men. His family of ten was wiped out by a severe storm, his large herd of cattle was stolen by marauding bandits, and to make matters still worse, he was stricken with boils all over his body. Yet through it all, he maintained his trust in God and patience that was beyond human comprehension. And when his wife tauntingly said one day to him, “Do you still believe in God; curse God and die.”
He answered, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”
Similarly St. Paul, though a man of towering faith, was not free from trouble. In his letter to the Romans, he wrote, “All things work together for good to them that love God.”
Many of us have tried to love God as sincerely as we know how, and yet, apparently, things are not working out in any manner that we would call good. It is obvious that we have a wrong idea by what Paul meant “good”. By our standards, things were not working out so good for Paul either. He was sitting in prison at the time he wrote these lines. The difference is this, Paul had a meaning and purpose in life which was so great and wonderful that all circumstances were made to serve it. This — Paul called good. Even in his imprisonment, the guards were being converted. Was not that good? The Christian who is so consecrated to God that everything in life serves him can not be defeated even as God is not defeated.
It is rather difficult for us to believe that any good could come out of present conditions. Many are distracted and unable to understand the meaning of present-day struggles. The Sacred Writer, who lived in a world very much like ours, and who was on the point of giving up, eventually came through beautifully and said, “I have fainted unless I have believed in the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”
Many people today are losing their balance, being gripped with a sense of inadequacy. Many are not willing to grapple with the problems which life hurls across their path. The reason, they are faint-hearted and their faith in God is not so deeply rooted as to believe that the best will evolve out of the worst if they but abide faithful, “believing in the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”
A young man came into a priest’s study and slumped down in a chair. Disappointment and discouragement were written all over his face. When the young man began to speak, a stream of religious doubts poured forth from his lips: How could one be sure there was a God? If there is a God, does He care for ordinary people? What will talking to God get you, anyway?
Tactful probing by the priest eventually revealed that the young man’s problem was not theological, but social. God had not let him down, as he had at first intimated. It was a dear friend, whose tactless letter had flattened out the young man’s ego. Since receiving the letter he had smarted under a sense of inadequacy until heaven and earth appeared Godless.
It is not an uncommon experience to doubt God when friends disappoint. Yet, the Scriptures are full of promises that God never fails nor forsakes those who trust Him.
Life at its best is a life intensely aware! Those who feel that saintliness means stumbling through life with bowed heads, ears deaf to nature’s music, eyes blind to the glory of God’s world, surely do tragic violence to the joyous spirit of the Christ, who pointed men to the fields and the woods, and drew God’s lessons from them. Open your eyes, friends, and drink in the beauty and order of God’s world. Then thank its Maker — and yours.
Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.