Living a life of empty pleasure leads to loneliness … but empowering others gives us meaning and fulfilment


Living a life of empty pleasure leads to loneliness … but empowering others gives us meaning and fulfilment

Entering into a new Church year just after Christmas is symbolic of the life of Christ, and each one of us, being born as a baby and the challenges we face growing up.

One of the struggles for all of us, but especially when beginning adult life is to determine “what is my purpose?”  We worry about what career to choose during the last couple of years, and become anxious about the final grades and whether I’ll get into my chosen course.  Often, at that point, it might be about getting rich and not so much about meaning in life!  But, by the early 20’s, after the initial freedom from family and/or the initial struggles to survive in life, young people start to worry about the meaning of life.  Why bother with all the struggle?

Discovering who we want to be and what we want to accomplish, are the key developmental tasks of adolescents.  Greater Good Magazine: How to Help Teens Find Purpose

God’s call to Samuel, in the First Reading, is a good reminder that finding our purpose and ‘call’ in life is not easy to decode; even more so in today’s world of social media, online bullying and exposure to things, like pornography, before we are able to deal with it healthily.

Samuel is called three times.  Note, the number 3 doesn’t mean three times, exactly, but the necessary number of times to achieve the required task.  So, the first reading reveals the mentorship of Eli growing in understanding of the deeper question of Samuel.

Like a dad being asked by his son: “dad, what career should I choose?”  Dad replies: “how the hell should I know?”  Then begins a long dialogue about what does he like doing, what subjects interested you at school and what gets you excited (apart from chasing girls or drinking beer)?

Thus embarking on a voyage of discovering one’s purpose is critical during the adolescent years.  Research shows that teens and young adults that seek purpose report higher life satisfaction and levels of happiness.  New research even suggests that a feeling of purpose in young people is associated with better physical health.

As Christians we are blessed to live within a framework that guides us along a ‘clean’ path while we struggle to answer the question.  We are encouraged to see that charity and service to others is an ‘obligation’ that leads us to deep joy – even if we are not happy about it sometimes!

Why does St Paul criticise fornication in the Second Reading?  Probably because the frequent use of others for our own pleasure leads us away from a purposeful life to a selfish life.

When we develop a habit of seeing the needs of others we are then open to seeing important people around us.  We see this revealed in the Gospel when John the Baptist, another MENTOR, points out the person of Jesus Christ and helps the disciples to see him.

Whether we like it or not, all of us consciously or unconsciously have people whom we look to for inspiration.  As the star guided the three wise men to Bethlehem last week, who are the stars that guide the way we think and act?

One of the great gifts of the Christian Faith is not that it helps us live an easy life, but that it helps us develop trust in the person of Jesus Christ as God among us.  So, over many years, we develop an unconscious connection to Jesus Christ that guides many of our decisions without thinking about it very much.

Hence, the importance of regularly “following Jesus” to where he is staying: the church is important, but also spend time with people who are in need.  It reminds us that our situation, though difficult, is not so bad after all: it gives us courage to appreciate what we have.

Then, the final part or purpose in our lives is to help others find meaning and purpose in their lives.  In case you have not heard of Maslow’s Triangle, look it up.  But, in summary, all our human needs are designed to help us self-actualise: to make a difference in our world.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a motivational theory in psychology grouping our human needs into five levels within a pyramid shape.  Starting at the bottom (widest part) of the pyramid the levels are: physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. Each higher level of human need depends on fulfilling the lower levels of need.

This practical guide to understanding the human person, linked to our spiritual life, can help us discern practical ways to help ourselves (when young), and help others as we grow older.

Finally, John notes that two disciples followed Jesus.  Companionship is an important part of our physical and spiritual lives.  Our companion(s) help us have courage in difficult times, remind us of what is the right way.  Having a companion(s) helps us to understand our feelings and guide our decisions so we make less bad choices.
May God open our eyes to see how we can empower others.

By Gerard Conlan, OMI