Is Life Fair?
“Is it possible that the Savior should rely upon the witness of St. John the Baptist? He was only his precursor; he was not the Bridegroom, but the friend of the Bridegroom. He was not the Christ, but the one sent to prepare his way, one who was not worth to loosen the strap of his sandals. Jesus nevertheless relies upon his witness to convince those who were unwilling to believe the Christ himself. Yet John did not work a single miracle, while Jesus filled all of Judea with them. John spoke as a servant, while Jesus, as Son, told what he had seen in the bosom of the Father. ‘So weak are our eyes,’ says St. Augustine, ‘that a lamp suits them better than sunlight. We seek the sun by the light of a lamp.’” (Note 1)
“This is what the witness of St. John the Baptist is for: so that you may be saved so that you may yourselves be convinced. Thus are the pride and hypocrisy of the chief priests and elders revealed. They did not deserve that the Savior should say any more to them than they had already heard a hundred times and which those hundred times they had not believed.” (Note 2)
Some thoughts on the meditations for today before I get into the meat of my discussion. The first quote, talking about St. John the Baptist, immediately made me think of our lives, especially our lives in this modern world, where everyone wants to be the leader, everyone wants to be famous. We pin all of our hopes and desires on being the CEO, the President, the movie star, the music star, the greatest ball player ……. WE forget that all of these things we aspire to be have a large support network of regular, every day people who support them and make them successful. Without the support network, none of these famous and ‘successful’ (I use that term loosely) people would be where they are, of if they managed to get that far, they wouldn’t stay. Some people have to be support people — actually most people have to be support people. And that’s okay. If everyone were ‘famous’ no one would be ‘famous’. We just have to do our everyday jobs with joy and love. God doesn’t care what your job is, so long as you do that job with love. Saint Teresa of Calcutta said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can all do small things with great love.”
Bossuet’s point on the chief priests and elders having heard a hundred times is the same point Jesus was making with the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen to anyone else (cf Lk 16:19-31).
I read an article that If found most fascinating. It touches on these points and talks about joy in life. It is “Life’s Not Fair: Finding Joy by Accepting Things as They Are” by Sam Guzman. I fall into this trap quite often, the trap of when things don’t go my way or life trips me up, or I suffer, I get completely bent out of shape. It’s awful how much it messes with my head. Mostly because I feel as though it should be easy and there should be no suffering. I forget that suffering helps us to grow, and there will ALWAYS **ALWAYS** be suffering. It’s how we respond to that suffering that is important. My response in the past has been less than stellar…ok, just bad — especially during my Navy years (yes, I just crossed myself when I wrote that). But, I’m trying to get beyond that, to a point where I realize that life will have suffering and my responsibility to myself, to my family, and to God, is to meet it with joy and to offer the suffering up for the holy souls in Purgatory.
We also can’t forget about the aspect of free will and actions having consequences. I’m not referring to consequences like if you run a red light, you’ll get a ticket. I’m referring more to second and third order effects of our actions, effects we typically don’t see, or even know about, but effects that happen, nonetheless. The pollution that used to be dumped into rivers that causes cancer in successive generations of families and wiped out species or brought many to the brink of extinction — those are second and third order effects. Sometimes our smallest actions have great effects — the $20 you gave to the homeless person who used it to buy a tent and thus had a place to sleep during a storm and didn’t get sick from the exposure (yes I know that could go to both ends of the spectrum, but we’re supposed to love and not question — and I prefer to focus on the good). I ventured to free will because we are so wont to blame God for everything. Sometimes things happen as fifth, sixth, seventh … order effects from our actions and from other people’s actions. It’s unfortunate, but it is NOT God punishing us. These are unintended consequences of a disordered world (disordered because of sin — sin is outside of the natural order of God) and man’s contributions to that disorder through sin.
This could go on and on, but I suggest reading the article and the comments. (Read the comments?! are you crazy?! — Yes, really, read the comments, they are substantial comments for once.) I want to leave you with some quotes from the article, just in case:
“People who lived before the advent of mechanized modernity were realists. Far from anticipating a life of air conditioned comfort, they expected that life would be hard, even painful. Making a living would unquestionably involve labor, sweat, and sacrifice. There would be sorrow along the way. yet far from depressing them, this expectation freed them to enjoy the leisure and simple pleasures they did have more fully. When you expect things to be hard, you enjoy your ease the more.” (Note 3)
“Yet, paradoxically, it is the very expectation that life should be pain-free that causes us the greatest suffering. For pain in life is truly inevitable. It will visit in one form and to one degree or another. In the words of the ancient Salve Regina, we live in a ‘vale of tears.’ Trials are inherent in a disordered, fallen world. The more we internally resist this unchangeable fact, the more anxiety and anger and bitterness the suffering we encounter causes us.” (Note 4)
“The man who expects nothing sees redder roses than common men see, and greener grass, and a more startling sun. Blessed is he that expecteth nothing, for he shall possess the cities and the mountains; blessed is the meek, for he shall inherit the earth.” (Note 5)
1. Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Lent, trans. Christopher O. Blum (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2013), 115.
2. Bossuet, Meditations, 117.
3. Sam Guzman, “Life’s Not Fair: Finding Joy by Accepting Things as They Are,” The Catholic Gentleman (March 28, 2017), at http://www.catholicgentleman.net/2017/03/lifes-not-fair-finding-joy-by-accepting-things-as-they-are/.