I have been pursuing the elusive meaning of life for as long as I can remember. Maybe it started the first time I faced my own mortality. The neighborhood bullies caught me and my friend playing on the monkey bars at the elementary school, it was right across the street from my house, located on Strawberry Park Drive, in San Jose. They made us hang upside down on the monkey bars until we cried, of course my friend sobbed on cue, and was released.
Now if you know me at all, you know I would never cry on demand, it might be the death of me, but I’m a little stubborn. While the blood was pooling in my head I considered my own mortality. I remember thinking my mom would miss me, Daddy would hunt them down, and my sister would take charge of my stuffed animals. I was five. What I didn’t know was the neighborhood kids were also pooling, Renee, Barbara, Nancy, Kip, Ron, and Craig came rushing to my rescue. Maybe it was the head rush, the relief, or the rescue but I felt euphoric. I belonged, I mattered, I had people who loved me. I ran into the house, grabbed the Oreo cookies, and passed them out as a token of my appreciation. I still do this.
My life has been privileged, safe, standard. I met my life long sweetheart in high school, graduated college, married, and had a bushel of kids. All the while, I was searching for answers in the crevices of life, but these answers were illusive. I wanted to understand God outside a personal and egocentric projection. I wanted to know what was good, true, and holy. I went in search of answers in a graduate program at Santa Clara University. I studied God for three years, and let me just say, God was elusive. I tried all the usual substitutes to satisfy this deep, unquenchable thirst, but like everyone else, I remained thirsty. It’s cliche, but while I was searching for the meaning of life, the answer was right in front of me, holding me hostage on the monkey bars.
The keys to the kingdom were dangling in the hands of my nemesis. If there is a God, I have to assume it is a God for everyone, including the good, the bad and the ugly (of heart). Let me just say, for the record, this pisses me off. I wanted my God to be on my side, I wanted to be considered good, morally superior, and not hit by the ugly stick.
The mean spirited people like Hitler, Osama bin Laden, Pol Pot, Joseph Stalin, those bullies on the playground, they were rejected by God. Right? Drowned in the waters of the Red Sea, judged, sent to hell, no damn Oreo cookies for them. I was dead wrong but this is what I love about God. It ends up, I am the bad one, I am morally corrupt (not all the time), and there are times when my heart turns ugly.
This is the good part, God still loves me, can you believe it? I go to mass and receive communion, so I can receive the love of God, even though I am not worthy. It is in the mana from heaven, the Oreos of God, that I am able to ingest goodness. I believe this is true for everyone whether you eat from the blessed table or not. There are many places where one can receive spiritual nourishment. Praise be to God.
The thing about all this twisted theology is the realization that we are all profoundly broken. Life is finite. And at the end of the day, I believe we will have to reconcile our actions both individually, and communally. There are no moral standouts, I don’t care if you are the pope, we are all sinners. The good news is found at the foot of the cross. Jesus is crucified, tortured, on the brink of death when he said, “forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Now this is God on the cross, forgiving all of humanity, not because we deserve it, but because we are ignorant, and human. Maya Angelou says, “when you know better, you do better.” So the long-winded answer, as I understand it today, we are all accountable, forgiven, chosen, and beloved. So the most important question, answered in and through this life, is how will I show my love today?
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against
you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets
who were before you.
Leave a good deed in the comments, I’ll send you an Oreo!