by Father Mark Goldasich
Wow, what a world we live in, right? Sometimes all you can do is shake your head. Here’s a great summary of the situation:
“The world is passing through troubled times. The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they know everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness to them. As for the girls, they are immodest . . . in speech, behavior and dress.” (Found in Anthony P. Castle’s “Quotes & Anecdotes.”)
If you find yourself nodding in agreement, then you and Peter, a monk who uttered those words, should get along well. But you won’t get to chat with one another until you get to heaven. You see, Peter the Monk penned that paragraph in the year 1274.
Honestly, things — or at least our perception of them — haven’t changed much in the intervening 737 years. I read Peter’s words every now and then when it seems everyone is saying that the world is heading to the “hot place” in a handbasket. His observation gives me a much needed perspective: Probably every generation has lamented the sad state of its affairs and longed for the mythical “good old days.”
A more productive approach to life is seen in this little story:
A man built a thriving business through hard work and honesty. As he aged, he felt concerned about the future of his enterprise because he had no children or close relatives, except for three nephews.
One day he called in the three and declared, “I have a problem, and whoever comes up with the best solution will inherit all that I possess.” Giving each an equal amount of money, he instructed them to buy something that would fill his large office. “Spend no more than I have given you,” he directed, “and be sure you are back by sunset.”
All day long each nephew attempted separately to fulfill his uncle’s instructions. Finally, at twilight, the nephews returned.
The first dragged in huge sacks of “packing peanuts.” When the bags were emptied, the “peanuts” nearly filled the office.
After the room was cleared, the second nephew brought in bunches of helium-filled balloons that floated through the office, filling it more completely than the “peanuts.”
The third nephew stood silent and forlorn. His uncle asked, “So, what have you to offer?”
“Uncle,” he replied, “I spent half of my money to help a family whose house burned down last night. Then I ran into some kids in trouble and gave most of the rest to an inner-city youth center. With the little bit I had left, I bought this candle and matches.” Then he lit the candle and its glowing light filled every corner of the room.
The wise old man realized that here was the noblest member of his family. He blessed the nephew for making the best possible use of his gift and welcomed him into his business. (Adapted from “Sower’s Seeds That Nurture Familty Values: Sixth Planting,” by Brian T. Cavanaugh, TOR)
This weekend we “fall back” into standard time and enter into a season of increasing darkness. It’s a good time to remind ourselves of one of our primary tasks as Christians: Fill the world with the light of Christ.
Like the nephews above, sometimes we try to do it using the things of this earth but, like those “peanuts,” they can only take us so far. Other times we want to fill the world with “hot air,” like those balloons. But all the talking in the world cannot substitute for action. The best solution is to be a light to others — see the people around us and respond to their needs in whatever way we can. In doing so, Christ shines through us to touch every corner of the world.
Because sunlight is in short supply during these months, it causes some to get S.A.D., or seasonal affective disorder. This triggers depression, which can in turn lead to poor eating (with weight gain), excessive sleeping, an inability to concentrate, a loss of interest in work, social withdrawal and general unhappiness and irritability.
Just as those who suffer from S.A.D. get the best relief from exposure to light, even artificial light, so we should be aware of the debilitating effects of spiritual S.A.D. and seek to cure it by being a light for others. Reaching out and maintaining connections through frequent phone calls, cards, email or visits can truly brighten the day of another and lift the pall of isolation.
We can bemoan the state of things like Peter the Monk, or do something practical like that third nephew and flood our world with healing love. We might be very surprised at how differently things look when seen in the light of Christ.