The little building with wood siding and a sagging pointed roof didn’t present a cheering prospect when we drove up. My friend and I had come to this little liquor store because we needed to buy some wine for a dinner party we were helping to prepare, and so despite the misgivings each of us silently felt we parked the car and went in, hoping to find the wine quickly and leave. On entrance the cramped interior presented an even less favorable impression. The only light filtered in from a window and fell upon rows of bottles and stacks of cardboard boxes thrown in a corner. We nodded to the proprietor slouched over the counter, and hurriedly began to search for the wine we needed. As my friend, more knowledgeable about wine than myself, tried to decide which wine to buy, another customer entered, apparently a regular, for he brought with him raucous laughter amid greetings and slaps on the back. My friend and I glanced at each other without looking over and instinctively tried to hurry more. From a small television set up on crates by the cash register the flat dialogue of a second rate soap opera drifted over, the crudeness of the conversation mingling with the whole atmosphere of the place. When we finally found what we needed we were more than happy to pay quickly and leave the dark cramped little store, which was only getting darker as the sun set.
Stepping outside I found myself in another world. Like Dorothy opening the door of her colorless house and discovering a resplendent Oz, I stepped out of that dark crowded store with its soap operas and raucous laughter, only to find myself surrounded by the untouched splendor of the setting sun. My eyes drank in the majesty of light, mountainous clouds tossing golden sunbeams toward heaven. As a light evening breeze tickled my face and stirred my hair, a pair of birds darted twittering through the pastel blue of the sky around, which still held the last echoes of daylight. The beauty of the scene before me pulled my heart heavenward along with my eyes and instinctively a prayer rose from my heart: “Lord, thank you for your beauty. For being so good…”
What I felt in those few minutes was the contrast between two worlds. One is the world in which many people today desperately search for happiness. It is the world of Brittany Spears, Michael Jackson, and Tom Cruise. It is the world of parties, drugs, sex, and drinking; the world of searching for happiness in pleasures that taken too far pull man down and make him more of an animal than a man; the world that in its exaltation of “beauty” destroys what is truly good and beautiful. It is the world that leaves the eyes empty and the heart endlessly searching for more.
The other is the world God offers us. It is the world of Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II, and every other hero. It is the world of doing good, loving others, and serving God; the world of laying down one’s life to find it; the world that seeks the good as the way to find true beauty. It is the world that leaves the heart brimming with a happiness the world cannot know.
The beauty of that sunset filled my heart with peace and the desire for all people to know the God I know, the God who offers us an internal joy greater than any the world’s pleasures can bring, the Creator whose beauty is mirrored in every sunset and every truly beautiful thing, as a path to lead us to him.
Author Mary Houser is a Consecrated Women on Regnum Christi.
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