A Core Programme for the spiritual life
For ages, men and women have been seeking direction on what to do and how to do it, seeking advice from oracles and fortune-tellers, visionaries and seers, reading palms and looking for any sort of way to glimpse into the future. Today’s readings for the sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time give us the answers to our perennial questions and complaints about life. How can I be happy and be fulfilled in life? They remind us that there are two answers. First is the fact that we have to battle against our native impulses and native tendencies, the evil spirit and the machinations of the world. Second, we are also to practise virtue. Our focus here is on the second side of our Christian responsibility as synthesized in the Beatitudes, which our Saviour gave us. One difficulty in speaking on the theme of the Beatitudes is that, we have heard and read so much about them, and we have prayed about these things so many times, we are tempted to think they are like relearning a multiplication table. No! Every time we direct our faith-inspired minds to these mysteries we learn more about them. Let us not limit our hearts and minds from the possibilities of gaining enlightenment and a genuine sense of direction.
Man is searching for happiness and all he is doing is meant to make him happy. The question is what are our sources of happiness? Today there are two broad understanding of the sources of happiness and joy in life: hedonic theory and eudaimonic theory. Hedonic theory argues that happiness is entirely about the attainment of pleasure and the avoidance of pain while eudaimonic theory advocates for meaning/purpose of life and therefore defines happiness in terms of the extent to which we are realising ourselves and fulfilling our purpose in life.
From the foregoing, as Christ’s disciples with special concern for the spiritual life, where do we stand? St. Paul says “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” and once one is clothed with Christ everything about him/her becomes that of Christ (Gal. 3:27). If this is the case, one can only be fulfilled in life as a Christian if and only if one conforms to the mission of Christ. That mission is contained in Christ’s mission statement that could be termed His manifesto. He says “The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me… He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor!” It is as if the Kingdom belongs to the poor? Yes, the Kingdom of God belongs to the poor. Who are the poor? The poor are those who are in need of the help of God. The poor are those who trust in the Lord. In the first reading, Prophet Jeremiah (17:7) says, “A blessing on the man who puts his trust in the Lord, with the Lord for his hope.” And we sang in the responsorial Psalm, “Happy the man who has placed his trust in Lord,” because to them the Kingdom of God belongs! The poor are those who no matter their wealth, power, fame and positions in life bow to the Lord in humble adoration and are loyal in heart, mind and spirit.
The life that the Lord wants to offer us is a blessed life. This blessed life is achieved through our solidarity with our neighbours and with God. Happiness is to be identified with every man, especially those who are suffering, hungry, rejected and in pain. Therefore the core programme of the spiritual life is to cultivate and practice the virtues of charity and justice in order to enjoy the benefits of spiritual happiness and joy. The only way to be happy is to make others happy! Towards this end, a fundamental spiritual and moral attitude to develop and promote is the awareness of the fact that “The most precious thing in the whole world is the consciousness of not participating in injustice of any kind.”
Fr. John-Mary Atep