Word Magazine October 1964 Page 6-7
WHAT WE SHOULD LEARN FROM THE SCHOOL OF LIFE
(A Sermon Addressed To Orthodox Youth)
By Very Rev. Father Michael Baroudy, Pastor Emeritus
St. George Orthodox Church, Vicksburg, Mississippi
Life is the greatest institution of learning. And the most important training we get is not how to make a successful living, but how to make the most of our lives in friendship, love, service, happiness, and worthy experience. So, whether in war or peace, prosperity or poverty, the quicker we learn some of the great lessons life tries to teach us, the closer we will come to being able to say that our lives have been really worth the living. Whether we can pass the test in the school of life and finish our record with flying colors, depends on whether or not we are able to grasp these great lessons life teaches, and practice them day by day.
The first lesson life teaches all of us is to be grateful. It teaches all to appreciate what others have done for us. Most of the fine blessings we enjoy in life were made possible to us by others who sacrificed, suffered, and died that we might enjoy these privileges. There is a question in St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, which I wish every growing Orthodox youth should remember. It asks, “What is it that you have that was not given to you?” Think of it! Others have built the churches in which we worship; others have built the schools in which we study; others have written the books, composed the music, created the arts, which are ours to have to enjoy. Others have built the roads upon which we travel; others have made the scientific discoveries which make modern living so much more comfortable. Others have died and are dying even now that you and I might live and be free. Not a single step in human progress without someone sacrificing for it! Others have paid the price that you and I might enjoy life.
The second lesson life teaches all of us is that it is a real game. If you want to play the game and win it, you must learn the rules and obey them. You can ignore the rules only to your own hurt. We all want something good out of life — health, happiness, success, freedom, friends, a good home, a true love experience, some thrills and adventures. Those are all normal desires for every healthy soul. No one ever really makes a bad wish for himself or herself. Of all the inmates in our prisons not one ever started his life deliberately planning to end in prison. They got there because they used wrong and evil methods to get what they wanted out of life. You can’t get something permanently good out of life by doing something definitely wrong.
This is a very important matter for the young people. It is natural for youth to go after thrills, adventures, self-expression. But the things many of them do to get their hearts desire are often tragic. They ruin their lives and spoil their dreams by ignoring the rules of the game, or by breaking them outright. A large percentage of our prison population is made up of young people. The things they did to get thrills and adventures led them to prison.
The third lesson life teaches us is that some of the finest things in life have no price tags on them. Money can’t buy them. Your money may buy you a fine house, but it can never buy you a real home. Money may buy all the luxuries of a house, but not true love. It takes a lifetime of living and loving, sacrifices and devotion to turn a house into a home.
That is true everywhere else. Your money may buy a high-powered automobile, but it can’t buy happiness for you. You have got to earn that. Money may buy you a political office, but never the faith and respect of your fellow citizens. You have got to earn that. No amount of money can buy a man a good name that is better than all the gold in the world, nor a clear conscience, nor yet a passage to heaven and the most important truth about this matter is this — the things that money cannot buy are far more essential for the happiness and welfare of our souls than the things it can buy.
The fourth great lesson life teaches us is that a man seldom gets what he wants out of life, but if he is wise, he will learn to make the most of what life hands out to him. Never be discouraged or disappointed just because you do not get your heart’s desire. Life seldom hands out to a man his first choice. Some of you are planning to become physicians, but will be forced to accept something else. Some will want to take up law, but may end up as clerks and laborers. Some young woman may be dreaming of becoming a great actress, but she may become an ordinary housewife. Life is always like that. Someone said, “When life hands you a lemon, add some sugar and make lemonade.” The truth is that life may hand many of you a lemon. Will you be wise and brave enough to turn it into lemonade?
The last and great lesson life tries to teach those of us who are willing to learn is that a man’s real value is not so much in what he gets as in what he gives. You young people ought to get out of life all you can — education, technical training, advancement, and success. But in the long run the true measure of your life is not in what you have and keep for yourself, but in what you give away. If you would have all the world’s wealth and the best education, but kept it to yourself, it would be like burying your talents in the ground. The more you use your talent and ability in some worthy cause, the more you will get out of life.
So let us live for something worthwhile. Always try to fill your records with kindness, honesty, love and service. And you will have your greatest rewards in the loving hearts of your fellowmen.
What we have said so far would be incomplete and inadequate unless we take into consideration the directives revealed by God in Jesus Christ our Lord. While God revealed Himself to men in all the stages of history, yet the revelation of Himself in His Son Jesus Christ excels and transcends all previous manifestations, for it was the unfolding and unveiling of God in a particular and peculiar way. In John 1:18 we read, “No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared Him” and in St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians, Paul affirms, “For in Him (Jesus) dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.”
Jesus was a comparatively young man when He initiated the Christian movement, being thirty years of age. He chose twelve young men to assist Him in the promotion of the Kingdom of God. These men accompanied Him on all of His missionary journeys, heard Him preach to thousands of people, witnessed His power in healing people of all kinds of diseases, even raising the dead. Jesus founded His Kingdom, not upon fear but upon love, not upon fanaticism, but upon faith, not upon superstition but upon the truth. Jesus revealed God as Love, Spirit and Light. The mark of genuine discipleship was love. Said he, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one for another.”
It was from this nucleus of twelve men — modest insofar as numbers go, modest in terms of educational, financial, political or social attainment, that it has grown to be the most sacred, the most powerful instrument for righteousness this world has ever known. It deals in matters that have to do with the salvation of human souls, and in life’s higher values. Ours is a faith revealed by Jesus Christ as to what should be a person’s attitude toward God, toward men and toward himself.
With the permission and the blessings of our great leader, Metropolitan Antony, I hereby appeal to all Orthodox everywhere to do no less than their best in promoting peace, unity, and creative good will. Much depends on youth and how to evaluate their heritage and their religious faith.
Today much is said about the high standard of living, but what about the high standard of thinking for as the Good Book affirms, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”
Upon the shoulders of all, both clergy and laity, falls the responsibility of lending a helping hand in guiding the ship of the church, whose Pilot is the Lord Jesus Christ. The church needs the support of every progressive, forward-looking, God-honoring and God-fearing Orthodox.
I hope and pray that we won’t fail, neither the Lord nor our church leaders in this hour of sinister, divisive, secularism and infidelity, and stand together and fight off all sinister influences contrary to sound doctrine and faith.