Tuesday 23rd July 2019

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Looking For Light In A World Of Shadows

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By DONALD DeMARCO

Nothing is random in the light of eternity and when viewed in this way, everything makes sense. To God, there are no accidents. Even forgetfulness can be an occasion of grace, a moment when we find light in a darkened world.
There were distractions that might have made my forgetfulness explainable that morning. But there I was, standing in front of the counter of a fast-food restaurant and suddenly making the embarrassing discovery that I had forgotten my wallet.
I asked the attendant if I could provide an IOU. She smiled and told me that her establishment had no policy for such a thing. Her sympathetic manner suggested that if she were in charge there would be such a policy. I trudged away, perhaps, in her eye, looking hungry, forlorn, and destitute. Then, unexpectedly, the change of heart.
She offered me a free breakfast and refused to accept the few coins I had in my pocket. “It’s on me,” she said. I offered to pay for my modest meal at the earliest opportunity. “Forget it,” she reiterated, “It’s on me.”
I sat down and began my gratuitous meal sweetened by the kindness of a stranger, made more delectable by the thought that someone had mercy on my situation. I listened to the three-way conversation that transpired across separate tables. It was impossible for me not to overhear what this trio was saying. The theme was the utter corruption of a particular Canadian province.
That may be true, I thought to myself, but I am dining thanks to another person’s generosity. Governments may be corrupt, but the kindness between strangers remains intact. Prudently, I remained silent. I said to my waitress, who was willing to break policy for my sake, that she was turning her place into a House of Friendship, but I would not broadcast the fact.
I was served with unaccustomed kindness. I was determined to repay my benefactor in some appropriate way.
One person’s memory lapse can knock on the door of another person’s generosity. My mind turned to Peter Kreeft’s latest book, Doors in the Walls of the World (Ignatius Press). The world wants to lock us in, to make itself sufficient to satisfy all our desires. There are policies, rules, laws, conventions, and plans that do not admit of offering any light from the outside. There are, so to speak, “nonstop flights,” “fabulous fun-filled weekends,” “endless summers,” and, as one posted sign reads, “10 barbers, no waiting.”
Despite the rhetoric, planes must stop, weekends must have moments of boredom, summer does come to an end, and customers must wait their turn no matter how many barbers are prepared to serve them. Wall-to-wall confinement does not nourish the soul.
Planned Parenthood thinks it can plan people’s lives. If you want to make God laugh, as the saying goes, tell Him your plans. Planned Parenthood does not realize that God is in charge.
We are beings who are made for another world. We do not want to be mummified in the mountain of the world’s red tape. Claustrophobia is neither our bromide nor our destiny. We plead, “Give me a break,” a good indication that the rules that bind us often do not serve us. We can learn much from nature which has the improbable way of breaking through obstacles despite the almost overwhelming odds against it.
Consider the words of the late Philippine poet, Wilfredo Derequito (1948-2006): “A blade of grass peeks from a crack in the pavement, silently growing with each passing moment. Not caring about its harsh surrounding, it survives firm and uncomplaining.”
We live in a “harsh surrounding,” an environment that discourages breakthroughs. Nonetheless we can take inspiration from the humble blade of grass. The poet goes on to say, “Love is like a blade of grass — it will grow anywhere it finds itself. Give it time and grant it space, it will live in the sun or in the haze.” In our desperate attempt to make the world all-sufficient, we build a barricade against love.
Plato’s cave dwellers spent their sad lives looking at shadows, never realizing that if they merely turned their heads, they could see the light. Many of us find ourselves in the same situation and become weary because we are not being nourished by the light.
Nonetheless, “patches of God-light,” to borrow a phrase from C.S. Lewis, surround us.
The world that admits no light from another world is the age or era in which we live. We are “in” this world, as St. John tells us, but not “of” the world (John 15:19). Satan is the god of the era that began when man fell into sin. In Greek, the word gaia refers to the world that God created. Aion refers to the “era” or “age.”
“The god of this world (aion),” writes St. Paul, “has blinded the minds of unbelievers” (2 Cor. 4:4).
Venerable Green Bay Packer coach Vince Lombardi would tell his fullback, Jim Taylor, and half-back, Paul Hornung, to “run to daylight.” In the seventies the Pittsburgh Steelers, one of the great defensive teams of all time, erected a “steel curtain” designed precisely to prevent “running to daylight.” Here is a metaphor for life. We find ourselves in a world that wants to prevent us from finding the light, while our destiny is precisely to find the light.
My forgetfulness occasioned a memorable breakfast and reminded me that light, just like love, can emerge in the most unlikely places and under the most improbable circumstances. Governments may be corrupt, but they cannot prevent human beings from being human, which is to say, sharing the light which has its origin in God.
(Dr. Donald DeMarco is professor emeritus of St. Jerome’s University and adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College. He is a regular columnist for St. Austin Review. His latest two books, How to Navigate Through Life and Apostles of the Culture of Life, are posted on amazon.com. 12 Values of Paramount Importance is in process.)

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