The search for happiness is somewhat like a dog chasing its own tail. It will never catch it, we will never find it. Unless we discover the meaning of this life. For many of us, life is stuck in a routine. I felt this way in my mid-life. Then, I had a young beautiful family and a job that pays for a few luxuries but yet deep inside me there was an emptiness. I questioned an existence that revolved around a job to pay the bills, and just to have do it all over again every month. I was not truly happy.
In today’s first reading, “Job began to speak: ‘Is not man’s life on earth nothing more than pressed service, his time no better than hired drudgery? Like the slave, sighting for the shade, or the workman with no thought but his wages’”.
There is a lot in that emptiness. During the initial months I could not even identify it as an emptiness. Not being happy was a symptom. Progressively, despite the material comforts, I felt a meaninglessness about my life. It was much more than boredom, more than drudgery. There was an emptiness, strangely intense, that was calling out to be filled. Meaninglessness began to feel like an illness.
I searched to fix it but they were all short-term fixes. I took on new hobbies but they didn’t last. My illness was getting worse. The last place I thought of searching was the Church. I already had a Sunday relationship with it. I thought it was enough, but it wasn’t. A voice began to echo in my emptiness. It was calling out for me to serve in a church ministry. That echo could not be quelled.
Where is the meaning of life? If we live life only to gratify self, we will soon find ourselves suffering in the meaninglessness of it all. Meaning in life can only be found if we do things that are life-giving. This is the only path to true happiness. To be life-giving is to find life, and to find it is to receive life. We must get stuck in this routine.
The second reading points us there. “I do not boast of preaching the gospel, since it is a duty which had been laid on me”. And our new drudgery is defined as, “So though I am not a slave of any man I have made myself slave of everyone so as to win as many as I could. I made myself all things to all men in order to save some at any cost; and I still do this, for the sake of the gospel, to have a share in its blessings”.
Many of us are today inflicted by meaninglessness. In today’s gospel, Jesus went into the house of Simon and Andrew to cure Simon’s mother in law. To cure the illness of our meaninglessness, we must allow Jesus into that emptiness. It is too simple just to say to allow him into our heart. We must allow him inside our families and our jobs, inside every issue we face and everything we do. Because with him present in all we get a truer perspective of what we are doing and chasing. With that, the dog will stop chasing its tail.
Life will continue to be meaningless if we continue to be slaves of self-gratification. Pay attention to the voice echoing in the emptiness inside us. He is calling us into a fullness of life; to replace meaninglessness with the meaning of life. Only then can we catch true happiness.
5th Sunday in Ordinary Time