published on July 8, 2014
TASTING THE GOOD, THE BAD and the UGLY
Written by PAUL JOSEPH C.
Once upon a time, there were large groups of people who dreamed of going to the "land of the free and the home of the brave", the great country that is now the United States of America. At the time, desperate families, men and women in search of bread and of a good life, would traverse the Atlantic Ocean leaving their past's poverty behind.
Many of them succeeded and, from starting as dishwashers or subway construction workers, they integrated into the American society and contributed to that wonderful cultural jam called 'melting pot'. Several of their descendants are now occupying important positions in the worlds of politics, entertainment, finance and other industries. They, their forefathers who bedded their lives on that long trip, humbly hoped to have a new life – and a new life they received.
One of those large crowds venturing out towards the Statue of Liberty left Southampton in Hampshire (England) on a sunny April 10, 1912. The majority of the people who boarded onto this ship, though, were not looking for a life to build – they already had a life built on security. What they did not realize on that exciting April morning is that their lives will have ended within five days. They will die in the terror of consciously knowing that there will be no escape from that destiny; they will die in the frozen waters of an ocean which will swallow them into its night blackness like an impetuous beast from the underworld; they will die at the mercy of that nature's grandiose monument built out of the marriage between water and cold air: an iceberg.
The Titanic was a symbol of luxury, status, vanity, greed, power and human ambition. If we can summarize all these characteristics together, the most proper term would be pride.
On that occasion, it was human pride the very cause for the downfall of those unfortunate passengers whose lives were abruptly stolen from one of God's silent marvels of the unknown. The forty-six thousand tons of man's engineering dressed in diamonds and pearls never shone onto the reflective waters of New York's Port: it was that same reflective mirror on which she boasted her beauty that became the very cause of her death; blinded by her own vanity and inebriated with her status, this queen never met her husband on the other side of the lake.
On the night of April 14 1912, one thousand three hundred and seventeen people were screaming for hours and yet, no one could hear them. Just three hours before the impact, those desperate men and women were eating and drinking over dinner while having the usual conversations that human beings are so accustomed to; they were unaware that death was at hand as they were drinking the best champagne under the large crystal chandeliers of the luxurious Jacobean-style dining saloon. They had no idea that 85 years later, a blockbuster movie will win 11 Oscars and cash in over 2 billion dollars on the disgrace that was about to bury them on the ocean floor. Men and women of prestige were occupied with thoughts of future money opportunities, of future plans and of commitments that never came to be. The people waiting for them on the other side of that ocean as well as their homes, their belongings, their meetings, their bank accounts, their great-grandchildren and the sun rays of the morning after were never again to be seen by their eyes.
My dear friends, this is no unique case. Eighty-nine years later, something similar will happen in that same city that Titanic never reached: thousands of regular people went to work on a day like any other and, as some of them were on the internet making a reservation for a tropical resort or gossiping about their colleague's tacky shoes, two airplanes suddenly hit their building and they lost their lives. They didn't make it home that day or any other day after. That September 11, 2001 was the date of death meant to be written on the tombs of thousands of people: all the CEOs, secretaries, janitors, waiters, bartenders, bankers, administrators, paralegals and lawyers had different birthdays, lives, pasts and families; but they surely shared the same cruel destiny of being buried by those two mighty towers which symbolized the status of the greatest nation in the world. Before catching their last breath in the burning smoke, or before jumping from the 84th floor to feel the fresh air once more, these men and women woke up that morning with the same thoughts of boredom, routine, tiredness and stress that accompanied them every single day.
The Two Towers representing power, money, ambition and status under a new global village were destroyed just as the Tower of Babel was destroyed for attempting to unite the ancient world under one language. That language was human arrogance, self-worship, egotism. Truly, it is called PRIDE: the very downfall of men and before him, of one-third of the angels in Heaven. My dear friends, aren't the stories of Titanic and of the Twin Towers the same of Adam and Eve? Or of Sodom and Gomorrah?
Although the results are always the same, we strangely fail to capture their very cause and miss on the opportunity to learn from our mistakes. But from the very beginning of our human chapter, pride has been the very origin of death, one of the tragic outcomes of the disobedient act in a long-lost garden. On September 11, the Big Apple was bitten by the same evil that entered all men and women through the bite of the first apple: the forbidden fruit. Long before a dented apple became the logo of a multinational, a remote day buried in the dust of our history saw the world change as sin entered Adam and Eve to instantly penetrate every corner of God' created Eden. The sudden shame of their own nudity – along with the instant knowledge of good and evil – forever stained their pure garments of holy flesh with the dirt of mortality; the darkness that they now hosted within themselves perennially scarred God's perfect countenance (which they themselves had possessed until then) by accepting that unholy and forbidden eucharist offered by Satan. Can we imagine how God felt at that time? Imagine how devastating it must have been for the Lord to witness that betrayal from the might of His Infinite love; seven thousand, seven hundred and seventy-seven spears trespassing His Heart would only be the beginning of the first suffering we inflicted on our all merciful Father.
How would we feel if, one day, we were released from work unusually early and, to surprise our wife, we bought her a red rose as a gift of love. And as we finally opened the door, our hearts were broken into a thousand fragments of tears as our eyes could now see our spouse giving herself to another man. How long would we be playing that moment in our minds? Sixty times an hour for hundreds of hours? Maybe dozens of weeks? Maybe ten years?
My dear friends, God has never forgotten that moment. He's still remembering it as if it happened today, or this morning, or an hour ago…or in the very now. He Continues to suffer each and every moment as a consequence of our insensitive and self-serving emulation of that Original Sin. The bruising of that image and likeness of His, which is stamped onto us mortals, humiliates the Creator of all that is seen and unseen by subjugating Him under Satan's pestilent influence over his cluelessly deceived victim: men. We are the cause of God's suffering; we are the unfaithful bride who rejoices in the exciting affair with the world; we are the children who foolishly listen to the stranger on the street who is about to kidnap us. Surely, our disfigured appearance may not be visible to our physical eyes, but the tormenting cuts of internal pain can turn the beauty of a tropical paradise into the ugliness of an abandoned factory in the outskirts of Detroit. This happens each time the gloom of a committed grave sin separates us from God's Light of love and grace; at the same time, we must remember that God does not Stop loving us because of our fall: such belief would only result in despair and, eventually, in giving up what seems to be a torturous and dark path towards an unattainable goal. Rather, in all humility and peace we must remind ourselves of the Trinity's endless love towards me and you as we hope in the washing power of Confession.
We need to know this Love. We need to know that without love there can only be despair. How much pain do those who don't believe in Him cause to His Heart? They fail to perceive the blood, wounds and lacerations of God's imprinted image onto us as we do our own will. They say 'Where is God? Who is He? He does not exist. It's impossible because the Bible was written by men…' and they choose a short-lived, personal and defective human opinion drawn by imperfect reasoning.
But God 's goodness is so limitless that on a Friday, about two thousand and fourteen years ago, the bleeding, the bruising, the cutting and the wounding created by humanity's sins became visible on a Man who just a few months earlier said 'If you have seen Me you have seen the Father'. His name was Jesus Christ. This Man Was God on earth and yet, His awaited coronation only consisted in poisonous thorns painfully piercing through His Holy Thoughts; the disfigurement of the Redeemer's perfect features was the same disfiguring we inflict on the Father's Face through our evils; the humiliation that our Father willingly endures at the mercy of the desecration of our own temples is the same humiliation which His Son freely accepted at the inestimable price of letting his own sacred flesh be nailed onto a cross, while the degradation of His Divinity through bodily nudity was covered only by the red wrapping sheet of His innocent blood flowing downward and then feeding the dirt beneath. The dirt in which that cross was planted and of which thirst was quenched by the gushing wine of life falling from Christ is the best representation of who we are. Mortal men and women of ashes whose only hope for eternal life is a cross to carry along with the eating and drinking of Christ's Flesh and Blood.
How could we not want to worship a God Whom Is Love? Don't we love Love? Don't we love falling in love? What could ever fill our void if not love? And after receiving love, we can only give it away. How could we not? Not only God the Father has made Himself the victim of human pride and wrong doings since the very beginning of civilization, but He Has also Sent His only Son to do the same in Body, mind and soul. This Our God, this King of Heaven and Earth, this most Merciful Father and Just Judge has also chosen to turn Himself into a slave who came to serve us the gift of Eternal Glory as a captive prisoner of an arrogant and boastful human race.
We, children of mud and pride, know very little outside of ourselves and our own enslaving vices; at 11:00 a.m. many of us might declare not to believe in worshiping a 'being' and yet, by 12:00 p.m., we are already idolizing the celebrity of the day, the newest TV show, the slick Porsche, the Titanic, the Tower of Babel and our own selves.
May we let go of our pride by letting the apple fall from the tree on its own and without dragging us down;
May we look up at the tree of life from which Jesus Christ gave us a new future by His Death and Raising.