The question calls for an honest reflection, a pondering of what truly gives my life purpose and fills me with peace.
"What are you looking for?"
There are so many levels on which this direct question speaks. One might reply "my keys, my cell phone, a good restaurant, State Street, a good job." And again, the question evokes a deeper response that addresses one's inner longing: "a sense of security, peace in my home and marriage, health and healing" and maybe something like, "a greater sense of purpose in my life ..., friendship and love."
Is it fair to say that each of us is "looking for something" every day? It seems to me we are, although sometimes the search may be implicit in my daily life and at other times very explicit. Notables from Seneca and Albert Einstein to Robert Kennedy all had different takes on what the purpose of life ought to be. Eleanor Roosevelt said: "The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience." Indeed, there are many admirable and lofty answers to the question.
While passing through an airport bookstore several years ago I picked up the best seller, "The Purpose Driven Life" by Rick Warren. The title alone grabbed my attention: to have some purpose, clear and firm, be the "driver" of my life. I thought, "I wonder what he thinks that would be?" Warren locates the purpose of life in a relationship with God.
A parishioner mentioned to me the other day that he recalled from his catechism in years past that the answer to the question, "Why did God make you?" was: "God made me to know him, to love him and to serve him in this world and to be happy with him in the next." Is it fair to say, therefore, that the goal of this entire journey is ultimately happiness? Does it seem too simplistic to say that God created us to be happy?
So it would seem the question Jesus asks the two disciples of John who follow him down the road, "What are you looking for," is an evocative question and it has reverberated down through 2,000 years. Today the question is meant for you and for me. The question calls for an honest reflection, a pondering of what truly gives my life purpose and fills me with peace.
What are you looking for -- to be happy? And what brings happiness is the next question! There is much we know that promises happiness yet little that really delivers happiness. It seems to me the essence of our happiness never comes from outside of us -- rather from the inside. It is found in relationships lived in love and is always a gift and its origin is God.
FATHER JAMES RONAN IS PASTOR OF ST. MARY-ST. CATHERINE OF SIENA PARISH IN CHARLESTOWN.
Father James Ronan is pastor of St. Mary-St. Catherine of Siena parish in Charlestown, Massachusetts