In the last two reflections (The Beautiful One — 04/28/19, The True One — 05/05/19), we looked at the two transcendentals of Beauty and Truth that can lead to God even in the lives of those who have not the benefits of faith. The third of these natural pathways to God is Goodness.
To be good is rightly understood by all peoples of the world. It therefore stands with the Beautiful and the True as roadways to God. For it is just in being good and doing the right thing that we are placed in contact with the divine realities of life.
A good example of this is what happened to Malcolm Muggeridge. Muggeridge was a reporter for the BBC. In his old age, he was a confirmed atheist and a skeptic when dealing with anything spiritual. One day, the executives at the BBC gave him an assignment: Do a documentary for British Television about an Albanian Nun in India who is picking up the dying in the streets of Calcutta. He was not happy about it, not because of the travel involved, but because the subject held no interest for him.
But he went anyway.
This nun, named Mother Teresa, humanly surprised him by her warmth and her strong commitment. He was amazed at the dedication expressed by the Sisters in the community, especially toward the most disfigured and abandoned of the people they picked up off the street.
If he had stayed there, it might have made no more than a dent in his view of the world. He would have returned to London and resumed his aimless and hedonistic lifestyle. But that did not happen.
Mother Teresa needed assistance at a particular moment and the other sisters were already occupied. So she asked Muggeridge to give her a hand, which he did. Everything changed.
As he began to do pure goodness, helping these dirty, unfortunate, diseased filled castaways, something was born in him: a joy.
A joy unlike the pleasures he had been perusing all his life. He was making a deep difference in the universe, one life at a time. From joy, he discovered faith; everything changed. He began to believe in God and his whole life took a 180-degree turn; he was reborn. He became a Catholic and became one of the most articulate defenders of the Christian faith. His autobiography is called “Chronicles of Wasted Time. ” By the title, you can see where he goes with it. It took a great act of courage in seeing the waste of so much time dallying with falsehood and lesser things and his final relief in coming upon the Truth and finally dedicating himself to what matters eternally.
He discovered this through acts of virtue, the exercise of Goodness. Doing works of justice and charity have a transforming ability to get us to see the things that truly matter. It helps us to walk past the apparent pleasures toward the eternal joy to which we have been summoned through our mere existence.
Of course not everyone ‘gets it’. Often the devil runs roadblocks in the form of thought patterns that disrupt the transmission of life saving strategies offered by God. That is why the ‘Desert Fathers’ always stressed vigilance and the control of thoughts so that the devil has his toys taken away. So even when we do an act of Goodness, involving real sacrifice, the evil one throws in the thought, “Now let’s get back to what I really enjoy!”
When this happens, we need to do what we do when we take our Baptismal vows, and renew them especially at Easter: renounce that thought and then go back to the prior thought of God-given peace which rewards the good action and promises that the right path chosen can make a real difference in life. In fact, when we get used to the joy of doing good, the carnal pleasures we thought so important just fall down and lose their power.
Even a confirmed atheist can approach whatever transcends our apparent existence by simply being good. As we have seen, when one is truthful, one can also open up new vistas. Entrance into the beauty of life is the third way any human being of whatever background can come to the threshold of faith.
But one cannot cross that threshold until one makes a decision to believe. Muggeridge and Chambers (from The True One — 05/05/19 ) came to that point. One can behold the beauty of life, but must make a decision in
faith. It is only then that the vast expanse of existence and reality opens up for us, both visible and invisible. Once we enter that new dimension that Beauty or Truth or Goodness lead us to, then everything changes. We realize we have been seeing things in black and white and slightly out of focus. Now we see clearly and with a sharpness that is amazing.