Chapter 15: Flowers, Not Thorns
He came and sat in the front. The archbishop had prepared his sermon as perfectly as he could because Edmund Burke was there and he wanted to impress him. But all the time he was becoming more and more nervous because Edmund Burke was sitting there with the same face, with no movement of any emotions, no encouragement in his eyes, no joy in listening to what was being said. The archbishop thought, “This is strange. He is sitting just like a dead man. And I am trying my best. It is the best sermon that I have ever delivered.”
Coming back home there was a long silence. Finally, as they were parting, the archbishop could not resist the temptation. He asked, “What is the matter with you? Are you sick or something? - because I did not see a single emotion on your face. If the sermon was not good, then there should have been some emotion; if it was good, then too some emotion. But you remained almost like a stone statue. When people were laughing you did not even smile; when people were crying I did not see that your eyes were wet with tears. You behaved strangely, and I had prepared the best sermon of my life.”
Edmund Burke said, “You created such contradictory statements that it is enough that I did not hit you then and there. I was holding myself back. That’s why I looked like a stone statue. If I had been relaxed I would have come near you and given you a good hit!”
The archbishop said, “But what was so bad that you wanted to hit me?”
Edmund Burke said, “You made two statements without realizing that they are contradictory. First you said, those who believe in Jesus will enter into paradise. Secondly, you said, those who are living a moral life will enter into heaven.”
The archbishop said, “But what is the contradiction?”
Edmund Burke said, “You studied philosophy with me, but you don’t understand philosophy at all. What about a man who is living an immoral life but believes in Jesus Christ? And what about the man who is living a moral life and does not believe in Jesus Christ? That’s where the contradiction is. It is not apparent to you or to your listeners, but you cannot deceive me.”
The archbishop thought about it. Certainly it was a contradiction.
Edmund Burke said, “You can answer me now. A man who has been moral and good his whole life, but does not believe in Jesus Christ - what is going to happen to him? What happened to Socrates? Because Jesus Christ was born five hundred years later, he had no idea of Jesus Christ, and he never believed in anyone else, but he was one of the most pious, most moral, and one of the greatest human beings that the earth has produced.
“What about Gautam Buddha, who did not believe in any Jesus Christ, who did not believe in any Hindu gods, who did not believe even in the existence of God, but who lived one of the greatest lives you can conceive of? You cannot find a single fault in his life.