HUMANITY AT THE CROSSROADS
by V. Rev. Fr. Michael Baroudy
Three thousand years ago there lived in Palestine a young man called Jeremiah, whose father was a priest. The time in which this priest's son lived was most critical-fear was on every hand. The Holy City of Jerusalem was being invaded from time to time by two opposing enemies, Babylon and Egypt. Palestine at that time was made up of two kingdoms, the Southern and the Northern Kingdoms. Not only were there two rival factions within the land, but general letdown of morals and corruption was manifest on every hand. These people were in possession of a great heritage. They were the privileged descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and God, through Moses, had given them the Ten Commandments. So far they had a glorious history. Their lives had been gloriously blessed. It was a nation that was peculiarly blessed with the knowledge of Jehovah. From a people who were dwellers of the open spaces, being nomads, they became possessors of large cities with organized, orderly worship and kings as rulers.
But degeneration began to take hold on them. They began to lose ground, both spiritually and morally. And from a strong nation in the days of Solomon, whose friendship was sought by all neighboring nations, they became so weak that their country was overrun time and again by covetous, blood-thirsty nations who took advantage of their weakened condition. Babylon and Egypt made one incursion after another to take possession of the country.
There were prophets and priests among them at that time, to be sure, but some of them were prophets and priests who prophesied falsely, who were as bad as the rest. For instead of warning the people of the impending, inevitable doom which would be their lot unless they reformed, they added insult to injury by promising an era of peace when it was apparent to the most casual observer that things were growing worse.
It was in such a situation as this that God called a young man, a priest's son, called Jeremiah, to take his stand and to preach against prevailing wickedness. Having been told to proclaim God's displeasure and to warn them of their terrible fate, he summed up the indictment as follows: "For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them — from the prophet even unto the priest, everyone deals falsely. They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, 'Peace, peace, when there is no peace.'
The situation that exists today, not only in the United States, but in all the world, is not unlike that in the days of Jeremiah. Nothing that is being done nowadays, and since the war ended, may be calculated to give us peace. We are far from being at ease, though we are not at war with anyone. Today America is the richest and the most powerful nation in the world. We possess wealth undreamt of. We have a powerful army, navy and air force that no nation in history ever possessed, as we are also in possession of great war weapons, and above all, the most horrid implement of war, the atomic bomb, the brain product of the American nation. But despite all of this, we are gripped with fear: we have sometime since lost our peace of mind, that inward tranquility, that peace which passes all understanding.
The indictment which the Almighty thunders through the prophet Jeremiah was summed up in these words: "Everyone from the least to the greatest dealeth falsely." Now isn't that enough reason for a disorderly, out-of-joint, out-of-balance life? Isn't that enough to make people the targets of their enemies, and the reason to make them live at variance with one another? False dealings means lying, cheating, suspicion and distrust. Look beneath the surface and see if not false dealings seem to be our motto in every department of our lives. On the international front we can't agree with our adversaries on anything. We are drifting further apart all the time, arriving at no agreement whatsoever. On the home front, false dealings is no less apparent. Labor and management are waiting for an opportunity to spring at each other's throats. There is no use denying the fact that humanity is at the crossroads with itself. Why do you suppose? Well, we are at cross purposes with one another, because we are at cross purposes with God!
Bringing the lesson down to ourselves as Orthodox, can we frankly and sincerely say that we deal honestly with one another? Can every family represented by Orthodoxy say that we are at peace with God and man? Do we cherish good will in our hearts or do we entertain a Judas-like policy of seeming friendship, but a deep enmity to someone? If you think it is rather awful and abnormal that we are at variance in our national and international affairs, is it less strange that peace is absent from our midst, and the relationships between families and individuals are strained to the breaking point? None of us can have peace in his heart as long as he is conscious of some secret jealousy or sin of any kind or color.
The condition of the Orthodox communities in the United States is absolutely deplorable, deplorable because someone or another in these communities traffic in the wrong kind of commodities. They deal falsely with their brotherman. They carry chips on the shoulders and spread falsehoods. They aim to create dissension and hatred and plant the seed of ill-will among people. Attitudes and behaviors that will not only weaken us, but will make us the laughing stock of everyone. It is no less than committing suicide!
It is time for unity, my friends. There has never been a time in the history of mankind when unity and concerted efforts were more needed. We need to be united because duty demands it and God commands it. We need to be united because nothing arrives without it and because everything arrives with it. We need to be united because the human race is on the point of destroying itself for the lack of it. It is time for unity for our sakes, for our children's sakes, for our business' sakes, and for God's sake. "Great peace have they which love thy law and nothing shall offend them," said the sacred writer.
"Follow peace with all men, and holiness without which no man shall see God," said another writer.
Corrupt, unredeemed, unenlightened human nature has ever been the same. It does not seem to be capable of learning the awful lessons of history. We don't seem to be capable of understanding that treaties are mere scraps of paper unless they are based upon honesty, sincerity and the truth. We seem to have forgotten that we've tried several human instruments designed to bring peace, all of which have failed. We have had a treaty for naval parity which has failed. We have had the Briand and Kellogg treaties, and they failed too. We've had a League of Nations which also failed-miserably. Now we are watching the flagrant, miserable, stupendous failure of the United Nations Organization. Why are all of these characterized and stigmatized by failure? Listen, "Everyone from the least to the greatest of them dealeth falsely with his neighbor." That is why. Whenever human beings come to the conclusion that falsehood is an element destructive to their best interests, being contrary to the will of God, and that truth is of God, for God is truth and therefore truth must characterize all, and become the basis of our human relationships, then peace will cover the earth as waters cover the sea.
In this connection, St. Francis of Assisi's prayer is hereby offered:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love:
Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light; And where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
To be understood as to understand; To be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
From Word Magazine
Publication of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America