Thursday, March 1, 2018
IS THAT ALL THERE IS?
In 1969, a singer by the name of Peggy Lee had a hit song entitled “Is that all there is?” It was inspired by the 1896 story, Disillusionment by Thomas Mann. It is a song and a story that seems to be very reflective of the attitude of the world today. It is about a person who is disillusioned with events in his life that are supposedly, at least in his mind, unique experiences which bring nothing but disappointment. So, his solution is to “instead of worrying about life, just break out the booze and have a ball if that is all there is to life.” That is his escape plan. Suicide is not an option because he is sure that death will be a disappointment as well.” This seems to be the growing and worsening mentality of the world today. Booze is being replaced or supplemented with drugs, burglary, road rage, mass shootings by young and old, rich and poor shooters. Every kind of assault is being perpetrated to what end? None of these bring end to misery. And, it seems that the world is less and less shocked or dismayed with this behavior. Yes, we are outraged and mourn for a few days when tragedy strikes. Then, we seem to say, “There’s no point in worrying about it, if it is going to happen it is going to happen, so let’s just get on with our lives.” So, my questions to each and every Christian are: “Why are we becoming so jaded? Do we believe as Mann’s story goes that even death will be a disappointment? That we are doomed to disappointment and gloom so we might as well go through life in a stupor of some kind?
It is a sad statement of our times that the Christian God-centered life is pretty much becoming a way of life of the past. Most people, including Christians, are too busy to even think about how stress filled their lives are, let alone do something about it. What do think it would take for you to change the way you and your family live? Do you believe it is possible to have a life that is less stressful, more meaningful and purpose-filled? How much effort would it take for you to change? The true purpose of a Christian life is communion with God for all eternity. The way to advance in spiritual growth, whether one is the pope, in the armed services, an engineer, a blue-collar worker, a student, a stay at home parent and so on, is the same no matter who you are or what you do in life.
How often do you think about what the meaning of life on earth truly is? In the depth of grief, when someone we love dies a tragic or sudden death, we may ask that same question Thomas Mann asked, “Is that all there is?” If we are fortunate, we might actually think about our soul’s future rather than our physical body along with its emotions and our own passing. Death is the rite of passage to eternity, not an end but to a beginning without end.
In a book, appropriately titled, Preparation for Death, St. Alphonsus Liguori explains why and how we should spend our lives preparing for death. In reality, we know this but most of us avoid thinking about it seriously. We are not born visibly stamped with expiration dates. Even if we were, I wonder how many of us would actually start earlier preparing for death. How many of us are perpetual procrastinators that always are putting off doing things till the last moment, habitually saying, “Maybe, tomorrow?”
Jesus spent His time on earth teaching us how to seek union with God. Jesus opened the gates of heaven for us. He taught us and showed us how to live our lives. He was the living proof that we have nothing to fear in death. The only way to draw nearer to God is to follow Jesus’s commands. We must have faith in God and accept His unconditional love. We must love one another unconditionally as God loves us. It is the only way that will bring us closer to God. Do you want to change? Would you like to be calmer and more able to handle all that life throws at you? Do you feel the need to lead a more virtuous life? Most important of all, do you desire to live eternity in the peace of Christ? How does change happen? All Christian churches and writers basically offer the same plan as follows.
1. Have a prayer rule that includes morning and evening prayers.
2. Participate in the Sacraments and the Mass. Don’t just sit in church daydreaming, planning what to do when you leave, reading the Church bulletin or interrupting the people near you with idle talk. Go to Confession often and receive the Eucharist regularly.
3. Participate in the fast and feasts of the Church. Make spiritual memories.
4. Call upon Jesus unceasingly whenever possible throughout the day and night with the words, “Lord have mercy on me.” Let Jesus be your first thought upon awakening and the last thought before you fall asleep.
5. Stop rushing. Take time to smell the proverbial roses. Get your life and priorities in order. Reduce the stress and unrest caused by a hurried life. Make what really matters in life your top priority that means God and family. Stop making excuses and truly kidding yourself. The world will survive without you but you cannot survive eternity without God.
6. Be on guard but not paranoid. Give full attention to what you are doing at the moment. Stop multi-tasking. Network in moderation. Choose your friends and business associates wisely.
7. Recognize the difference between virtues, vices and passions and how to control them. Overcome your bad habits. Understand your attachments as well as your likes and dislikes. Most important of all, commit to the practicing the virtues of faith, hope, love and the peace of Christ.
8. Consider not only yourself but others. You don’t always have to be your first priority. Free yourself from your selfish mindset and find the true joy in your life. Learn to walk in another person’s shoes. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Learn to be aware that God is watching your every action, hearing your every word and knowing your every thought and motive. Think before you speak or do anything, then, think again. You don’t always have to be right or have the right of way. It is okay to agree to disagree. Be mindful.
9. Choose to be with people that have the same spiritual values that you have. Will they lead you unto heaven or hell?
10. Read the Bible slowly. Taking time to meditate on what is being offered. Choose to have a spiritual counselor who will partner with you on your spiritual journey.
Change will not happen overnight.Growth is a continuous process. Rest assured, God does hear and answer all your prayers. Yes, sometimes God says “no.” There will be times when He says “no”a lot. God’s ways are higher than our ways. God, alone, knows what is best for each of us. There is no time as we know it for God. God answers our prayers immediately. Because we live in the concept of time, it may take years for us to realize our prayer was answered. If you commit to doing all of the above consistently and earnestly, you will change and your life will change. You will find that you are no longer asking, “Is that all there is?” You will learn not to fear death for it is not the end, it is the beginning of an eternity with God. What more could anyone want?
Fr Marek Chmurski