I still remember Jerry Leiber’s lyrics in the 1960s hit song Is That All There Is?: “When I was 12 years old, my father took me to a circus, the greatest show on earth… I had the feeling that something was missing… but when it was over, I said to myself, ‘Is that all there is… ?’ ”
But the ‘circus of life’ continues, and as Freddie Mercury says: “The show must go on”. And how impressive it all is! I can’t help thinking of the amazingly beautiful, lavish and spectacular inauguration of our flagship capital city for the V18 celebrations.
But what impresses me more are the day-to-day celebrations in our ordinary lives. We cannot keep up with the ever more frequent, elaborate and expensive parties to celebrate birthdays, pregnancies, graduations, weddings, baptisms, First Holy Communions, ordinations, village feasts… besides the weekends. Anything, anytime is a marvellous occasion for a party. Is it good? Is it bad? Who knows?
We show the same excitement and compulsive enthusiasm for the things we buy, be it property or the latest iPhone. It has to be the latest, most sophisticated, luxurious, state-of-the-art, expensive thing on earth. Woe to us if our bathroom, furniture, car – and, of course, our clothes and labels – are not the latest ‘fashion trend’ or ‘market standard’. Is it good? Is it bad? Who knows?
Our standards are shooting up. Whatever it is, it needs to be better, bigger, more comfortable, more complicated, more expensive and more impressive. Is it good? Is it bad? Who knows?
But the truth remains: “Man does not live by bread alone.”
What really matters is not the wedding party, but what happens after; not the birthday party, but the quality of our day-to-day life.
What matters is not what how my suit, dress or make-up makes me look, but who I am deep inside.
What matters is not property, rank or status, but how noble and rich in love and mercy is my heart.
What matters is not how fat my bank account is, but how much I can enjoy what no money can buy
What matters is not how fat my bank account is, but how much I can enjoy what no money can buy.
What matters is not popularity, but how much I am loved and respected for my integrity, loyalty and faithfulness.
What matters is not so much how many millions we have raised in mammoth charity campaigns, but how much I share the little I have with those who are lonely, neglected, forgotten in my own family, home or office.
What matters is not how high our buildings go, how far our petrol stations spread, or how smooth our road surfaces are, but how we live in our air-conditioned, luxury apartments, how high and noble our values are, and how strong we are to ride the bumpy road to mutual acceptance and understanding.
The same applies to Church and religion.
What matters is not how many people go to Mass on Sundays, but how much they find in it real sustenance to keep loving and serving for another week.
What matters is not how popular and noisy our village feasts and fireworks may be, but how peaceful and meaningful are our lives thanks to our faith and charity.
We all know it: what matters in life in not form but substance, not appearance but reality, not noise but meaning, not fun but joy, not comfort but well-being, not crowds but life-giving relationships, not food but life, not beliefs but values, not feelings but love in action.
When all is said and done, we still have a choice. We can either question perceptively: “Is that all there is…?” or scream in resignation: “The show must go on!”
Fr Paul Chetcuti is a member of the Society of Jesus.
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