The end of the story, one cup at a time

By Jeff Smith
Special to The PREVIEW

I recall with something of a shudder, being on the track, my feet in the starting blocks, hands on the tarmac, head up, waiting for the starting gun to go off. I had transferred to this high school in my sophomore year and was having trouble fitting in. Lacking the bulk to play football, not all that good at baseball, track was my next option. For one moment, at the start, we all looked good. Later I found my niche in music.

This morning, from the wisdom scriptures in the Bible, in the book of Proverbs, I find this:

Proverbs 10:7 “The memory of the upright is a blessing, but the name of the evil-doer will be turned to dust.”

Coffee and wisdom. It is not a bad way to start the day.

A smart or wise person knows that, as a basic rule, the short term seldom tells us much. Stand in a spotlight for 15 minutes and one is tempted to think that what we did there matters and that we will be thought of later. Not so. The end of a race tells us most of what we want to know and much of life is the same way.

If I read Solomon right, a lot of what this verse and others like it concludes is that, if one does right things, good things, even in a sneaky way, hoping no one finds out, that sort of thing often comes out despite any best efforts to keep it quiet. Why? Well, in this verse it says time and memory tend to select out the good and the noble. The tyrant, the despot, the cruel, the selfish, the liar, the fool, all trying to make a name for themselves end up like some compost pile, looking and smelling the same. I mean who would want to think about those guys if you had a choice in the matter? The memory of those who blessed us, who did right, that we think about.

Here are some of the other verses on this subject of how things end.

10:24 “The thing feared by the evil-doer will come to him, but the upright man will get his desire.”

Don’t those who live awful, selfish lives have hopes and dreams? Don’t they aspire to better things like the rest of us? Yes, they do, just as those who try and do right have fears and doubts. But it is not the dreams or the fears that matter. It is whether one makes simple fairness and justice a daily practice or not. The final outcome of both is like night and day. It is based on the nature of their souls and not their goals.

11:18 “The wicked work a deceitful work; but to Him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward.”

The things we do go unseen for many reasons. We can steal or deceive and hope to get away with it. We can do something very good and sometimes not get noticed. Both are hidden, but one is good and the other bad. Stealing is planned. Not being noticed happens. Hide something stolen in the ground and it might not get found, but sow seeds in the ground and they sprout after a while. Good works are like that.

Margherita Guarducci was a stubborn woman. In 1939, she was a professor at the University of Rome and had spent six years of study on the graffito or writings on the walls of a first century village found under the Vatican. There had been hopes of finding the grave of the Apostle Peter, who was supposed to have been buried in its cemetery. Peter, after years of faithful service to his Lord, had been imprisoned by Emperor Nero in the fetid Mamertine Prison for nine months before being martyred in Nero’s circus. His body was buried close by, but when they dug down to that level, what should have been his tomb turned up empty. Most likely it was lost when Rome was sacked by the Saracens.

Then she read the words on the wall, “Peter is within.” The short story is that the bones had been moved to an ossuary, or a niche in the wall.

I don’t value church relics like some do, but it is worthy of note that under this huge Saint Peter’s Cathedral in Rome, for 2,000 years, no one gave a hoot about finding the bones of Nero.

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This story was posted on February 20, 2014.