A Little Parable on the Lies of the Devil and the False Promises of the World

By: Msgr. Charles Pope

One of the great illusions under which we labour is, that if we just get one more thing from this world, then we will be happy. Perhaps we think that if we just had a little more money, or a better job, or the latest iPad, or if we were married to so and so, or if we just lived in a better neighborhood….then we would be satisfied and content, at last. But “at last” never comes, even if we do get some of the things on our list. As Ecclesiastes puts it: The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing (Ecc 1:8). Or again, Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income (Ecc. 5:8).

Though we know this, somehow we continue to buy into the lie, again and again, that just one more thing will do it. So we lay out the money, and spend the time, and the delight lasts twenty minutes, max. The world just can’t close the deal.

There is a little preacher’s parable that illustrates the endless treadmill the world has us on, and how it endlessly seduces us for “just one more thing.” In the end this seduction leads us to neglect the one thing most necessary. Here is the parable, then some commentary:

There was a man who was lonely and thought, perhaps, that buying pet would help his loneliness. At the pet store he looked at many animals, and found himself drawn to one in particular. The sign over the cage said, “Talking Parrot: Guaranteed to talk!” This will surely solve my problem,” thought the man,” For here is an animal that can even talk!”

“That’ll be $250,” said the merchant.

One week later the man returned saying, “This Parrot isn’t talking!”
“You mean to say,” said the Merchant, “He didn’t climb the Ladder and talk?”
“Ladder?” You didn’t tell me about a ladder!”
“Oh, sorry.” said the Merchant, “That’ll be $10.”

One week later the man returned saying, “This Parrot still isn’t talking!”
“You mean to say,” said the Merchant, “He didn’t climb the Ladder and look in the mirror and talk?”
“Mirror?” You didn’t tell me about a Mirror!”
“Oh, sorry.” said the Merchant, “That’ll be $10.”

One week later the man returned saying, “This Parrot still isn’t talking!”
“You mean to say,” said the Merchant, “He didn’t climb the Ladder and look in the mirror, peck the bell and talk?”
“Bell?” You didn’t tell me about a Bell!”
“Oh, sorry.” said the Merchant, “That’ll be $10.”

One week later the man returned saying, “This Parrot still isn’t talking!”
“You mean to say,” said the Merchant, “He didn’t climb the Ladder and look in the mirror, peck the bell, Jump on the swing and talk?”
“Swing?” You didn’t tell me about a Swing!”
“Oh, sorry.” said the Merchant, “That’ll be $10.”

One week later the man came to the shop and the merchant asked, “How’s the Parrot?”
“He’s dead!” said the man.
“Dead?!” said the Merchant…Did he ever talk before he died?”
“Yes! He finally talked” said the man.
“Well, what did he say?”
“He said, ‘Don’t they sell any birdseed at that store?’”

Lesson 1: Promises, Promises – And thus this parable teaches us in a humorous kind of way that the world, and the “prince of this world” are always promising results, yet when those results are lacking, the practice is simply to demand more of the same. The bird, the ladder, the bell, the mirror, the swing…. Always something more, and then the perfect result will surely come! This is a lie. The lie comes in many forms: just one more accessory, just go from the free to the paid version, the upgrade solves the difficulty, just one more drink, one more failed diet, a newer car, a bigger house, a face lift, bariatric surgery, just one more thing…then you’ll make it, happiness is just past the next purchase.

Jesus, in speaking the woman at the well said of the water of that well (which represents the world),  Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again (Jn 4:13). And that is the sober truth about this world, it cannot finally quench our thirst, which is a thirst for God and heaven. But time and time again we go back to the world and listen to the same lie, thinking, this time it will be different.

Surely it is sensible that we make use of the things of this world, insofar as they aid us to accomplish our basic duties. But they are not the answer to our deeper needs. The big lie is that they are the answer. And when they fail, the lie just gets bigger by declaring that a little more of the failed product will surely close the deal. It’s a big, and bigger lie.

Lesson 2: The One thing Most Necessary – In all the pursuit of the mirrors, bells and ladders, the one thing most necessary was neglected: the food. Here too for us. We seek to accumulate worldly toys and trinkets that are passing away, and neglect eternal and lasting realities. There is time for TV, sports, gossip, shopping, you name it. But prayer, Scripture, Sacraments, Liturgy, worship, and developing any kind of relationship with the Lord,  is most often neglected or wholly forgotten in our pursuit of mirrors, bells and ladders. We are staring into the mirror focused so much on our self. The bells of this world summon us to endless things, mostly trivial in the long run, and we are climbing the ladder of success with little care as to what wall it is leaning against.

And all of these less important matters divert us from the one thing necessary: which is to feed our souls on the Lord: Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him…the one who feeds on me will live because of me... (Jn 6:56-58).

Ah, but no time for all that….getting to Church, praying, receiving communion….? No time! For, I hear a bell summoning me to just one more diversion, one more meeting, I am too busy climbing the ladder of success, and looking at myself in a mirror to make sure I fit in, and that everyone likes me.

Did [the bird] ever talk before he died?”
“Yes! He finally talked” said the man.
“Well, what did he say?”
“He said, ‘Don’t they sell any birdseed at that store?”

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4 Responses to A Little Parable on the Lies of the Devil and the False Promises of the World

  1. Robert John Bennett says:

    Monsignor Pope’s essay is so simple and so true and so brilliant.

    Like

  2. Robert John Bennett says:

    I just want to add that what makes the essay so brilliant is the fact that it describes EXACTLY the way the world works.

    Like

  3. toadspittle says:

    .

    Nothing wrong with the Msgr’s simplistic little homily. Yes, materialism is ultimately absurd and unfulfilling, What Toad finds questionable is the inference that the only choice is either Mammon or God. No other alternatives.
    Epicurus said something to the effect that” If you want to make a man rich, teach him what he can live without.” Sound advice, with no mention of a deity.
    But this is CP&S, and naturally they do have an “angle.”

    Incidentally, when some outsiders look at the magnificence and panopoly of Catholicism, including the Pope’s bejewelled outfits (and the churches themselves) dripping with gold gee-gaws, and bling they are inclined to see this as materialism, and a craving for the vulgar things of the world at an advanced level. Thinks Toad.
    As Lenny Bruce once remarked, “If Jesus came back to earth today, the first thing he would say to the Pope would be, “Take off that big ring.””
    Of course, both Mr. Bruce and Toad could be wrong.

    Like

  4. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Well, knock me daan wiv a fevva!

    I find that for once Msgr Pope is talking sense – tho’ given his past utterances I’m not entirely convinced if he has had a Damascus like conversion. A quizzical cynical eyebrow is raised.

    But still, credit where it’s due, the old Msgr is right on the money(no pun etc) in his anti consumerist and by implication his anti capitalist article. He’d better be careful or he’ll end up being ‘extraordinarily rendered’ to Gtmo, and made to shuffle around in orange overalls between waterboarding sessions.

    Let’s hope not.

    Like

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