Fr. Christopher Etheridge, IVE
That question continues to accompany us into our adolescence and youth. Not only do we continue to seek the knowledge of things around us, but more importantly we begin to question our very existence. Why do I have life? By asking the question “why” we want to discover our purpose and meaning.
Finally, even on into adulthood and old age that question remains. And again the why begins to dig deeper into our lives. It is no longer a “why” about the things around us or the purpose of our life, it is rather a “why” about our past. It is a self-examining “why”, a contrite “why”. “Why in my youth did I do the things I do?” “Why did I not take advantage of that opportunity?” “Why am I still the way I am?”
We cannot escape the “why” question. Nor did it escape the life of Our Lord.
There are several differences between us and Him, however.
Thus, in today’s moment of prayer I want all of us to ask the “why” question.
For some of you that will mean asking “Why am I still falling into the same sins?”
For others it will mean asking “Why am I not happy and at peace where I am in life?”
And still for others it will mean, “Why am I still not as holy as I should be?”
It isn’t until we probe the “why” question in prayer with Our Lord that we begin to find the courage to change. Our Lord is the Great Physician, but He cannot heal us until we bring Him what is ailing. The doctor never comes to you when you are sick. You have to go to Him. You have to tell Him what hurts…what is afflicted…what is not functioning right.
By asking the question “why” we want to discover our purpose and meaning.
You see, everything has an end. Nothing exists without a purpose. The purpose of the coconut tree is to produce coconuts (end). The purpose of a cell phone is to communicate with others (end). The purpose of our life is eternal communion with God (end). If we respect those ends we live and use things well. It’s when we don’t respect the ends of things that we have problems. When I expect the coconut tree to give me mangos, I’ve got a problem. When I use my cell phone to do sinful things, I’ve got a problem. When I go through life living for anyone or anything other than God, then I’ve got a problem.
Not only that, we cannot do anything without having an end. The end we seek determines why we do things. Most ends in life are what we can call intermediate ends—they fill up all the small moments of our life. Why do you get up early in the morning? To go to work or to do house work. Why do you work? The earn a living. Why do you earn a living? To provide for your family. Why do you provide for your family? So that they are healthy and well. Working, earning a living, providing for your family, health…all of these are intermediate ends.
But there is one end for which we do everything: happiness. Happiness is our last end. Everything we do, we do it hoping to find happiness. The great let down in life, however, is that all around us can only give us temporal happiness. What we really desire is eternal happiness, and that can only be found in the One Who is Eternal: God.
The reason why we some of us are I still falling into the same sins;
The reason why some of us are still not happy and at peace where we are in life;
The reason why many of us are still not as holy as we should be,
Is that we are not directing everything back to God. We have lost sight of our Last End.
One of the great teachings of St. Ignatius of Loyola is that man has a Principle and Foundation. He defines it as this:
Man is created to praise, reverence and serve God our Lord and by this means to save his soul.
Life is about living freely for God and with God.
From this it follows that man is to use these things to the extent that they will help him to attain his end. Likewise, he must rid himself of them in so far as they prevent him from attaining it.
It is a simple principle, so simple that it must be at the foundation of our life.
God is first. I have life because of Him. This is His first gift to me.
Freedom is next. It is God’s second gift to me. Thus, I will only be happy in so far as I live for Him and with Him.
Last is how I use things. Holiness depends on the right use of things (everything). And the right use of things depends on whether or not I am using them as God intended.
St. Ignatius ends by giving us the Golden Rule of Freedom and Happiness:
If things help me reach God, I can keep them and use them. If things pull me away from God, then I must get rid of them.
Now the catch is that he is not talking about sin. Sin is a must in the rid department. We have to uproot sin if we are serious about our holiness. St. Ignatius is talking about good things. Even good things become obstacles when I no longer respect their reality as means to help me live for God. When I do such I become attached to them.
Christ came into this world as poor child in Bethlehem and He left this world as a poor man on the Cross. He did so to teach us that the one thing necessary in life is God. Life is not about wealth, popularity, fame, security, perpetual health, pleasure. Life is about living freely for God and with God.
This is one of the greatest lessons of the Crucified. He had nothing on the Cross. No clothes, no popularity, no fame, no fortune, no pleasure. And yet, He was and will always be the Freest Man on earth as He hangs upon that Cross.
So, we come back to the question why?
“Why am I still falling into the same sins?” / “Why am I not happy and at peace where I am in life?” / “Why am I still not as holy as I should be?”
Christ Crucified is the only mirror when need to look into to answer those questions. Look into that mirror and put those questions to Him. Here he is before you in the mystery of His Passion and Death. He will give you the answers you need.
Taken from a 2021 Holy Week (Wednesday) Homily.
The Principle and Foundation is a crucial part of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. To learn more about the Exercises and see upcoming dates, click here.