How can we make sense of the pandemic, the violence and the destruction all around us? How can we understand the times in which we find ourselves at this moment in history? More importantly – in the midst of chaos – how do we find the abundant life and the happiness that our hearts sense is just on the other side of mayhem?
The answer is hiding in plain sight, but most people will not find it. Watching the news on any night reveals the dysfunction and violence that results when people live in darkness and give in to the lure of the world, their own distorted passions and lusts or to the temptation of Satan himself. In a sense, we all stand before the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. To choose life and move toward the light means to embrace the good, the true, and the beautiful. This choice calls for humility, for one must be humble enough to be open to the truth. And the truth is not a something, the truth is a somebody. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6).
To seek the abundant life and the happiness that our hearts sense is just on the other side of mayhem, one must move into “connection” with Jesus Christ. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
The violent history of mankind reveals the choice that many have made. For the evil that is in our world begins in the mind and heart of the human person. “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness” (Mark 7:21-22). It is from these hardened human hearts that evil erupts and spills over to infect the culture like an ugly virus.
A man murders another man on the streets of Minneapolis. Cain kills Abel. Evil has entered the world of man and has found its way into his very heart. It seems that we should all have caught on to this cosmic story by now. Good versus evil, light versus darkness, love versus lust… and seek the better way that has been revealed to us. Yet somehow along the way we became blinded to what history has so clearly been trying to tell us. Aldous Huxley said, “that men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history.” We look to a savior where he cannot be found, and the result is always the same — dysfunction, violence, and hatred.
I am reminded of Saint John Paul’s reflection on the twentieth century, which began with the hope of unlimited progress, but ended as the bloodiest century known to history.
“Modern man had placed his hopes for a messiah in his own genius- in science, technology, and medicine. Whenever man loses sight of the “great mystery” and sets his sights on this world, he always meets disappointment, even despair. “The world is not capable of making man happy. It is not capable of saving him from evil, in all types and forms–illness, epidemics, cataclysms, catastrophes, and the like. This world, with its riches and its wants, needs to be saved, to be redeemed.” (Crossing the Threshold of Hope)
Bishop Fulton Sheen said, “the key to social betterment is always to be found in personal betterment. Remake man and you remake the world. We gravely need to restore to man his self-respect and to give him his appropriate honor: this will keep him from bowing cravenly before those who threaten to enslave him, and it will give him the courage to defend the right, alone if need be, when the world is wrong. As society is made by man, so man, in his turn is made by his thoughts, his decisions and his choices. Nothing ever happens to the world which did not first happen inside the mind and heart of some man. Our society can be saved only if man is saved from his unbearable conflicts, and man can be rescued from them only if his soul is saved.”
“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”. Do these words of Jesus from John 10:10 sound familiar? What may not sound as familiar is the entire verse. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
In a sense we all stand before the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and make a choice. The world will be transformed for the good, the true and the beautiful only when we are. We are transformed when we experience the mercy and love of God:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Let me warn you up front, we have been offered eternal life, but time is running out. The story that history has been trying to tell us is getting louder and louder, yet it continues to fall on deaf ears. Soon we must all pull our heads out of the proverbial sand. For the abundant life and the happiness that our hearts sense is just on the other side of mayhem … for ourselves, our children, and our neighbors … will soon be beyond our grasp.
“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:16-17)