2005—Second Sunday in Ordinary Time —A I don't know if you are familiar with Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life. It is a NY Times bestseller and has sold over 15 million copies. Many people have used it as a blueprint for living. Given the testimony of many, it has real power to charge one's personal and Christian batteries. It's a 40-day retreat that raises the basic question "What on Earth am I here for?
Good question! What on Earth am I here for? The starting point of the purpose driven life is the realization that one's purpose does not come from within, with the question, "What shall I do with my life?" but rather from without, from God. The reason we are here in the first place is that God has a purpose in mind for each of us. He goes on to say that you discover your identity and purpose through a relationship with Jesus Christ. (He also says that if you don't have such a relationship, he will explain later how to begin one but I haven't gotten that far in the book yet so I can't tell you what he recommends)
If someone thinks that Mr. Warren's Purpose Driven Life is a brand-new way of looking at the meaning of life, they should look back 450 years to the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola. Mr. Warren may have better marketing and distribution but essentially the starting point of both is the same. Ignatius begins his Principle and Foundation with the statement. "The human person is created to praise, reverence and serve God and by this means to save one's soul." Very simply put. Our purpose on this earth is driven by our relationship with God. We are created. Our lives are not ultimately our own. Like Mr. Warren, Ignatius would say we discover our purpose in relationship with Jesus Christ. As Ignatius says, ask for the grace "To see him more clearly, to love him more intimately, to follow him more closely"
Today's scripture's made me think of the Purpose Driven Life
and the Principle and Foundation of The Spiritual Exercises.
Listen again to the words of Isaiah:
The Lord said to me: You are my servant, Israel, through whom I show my glory. Now the lord has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb. It is too little the Lord says, for you to be my servant. I will make you a light to the nations that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.
The first Christians recognized the person and mission of Jesus in these words. He was the servant, God's chosen one. We hear it in John's testimony at Jesus' baptism. Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. John's purpose is to show Jesus as the chosen, anointed one. "On whomever you see the spirit come down and remain. He is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit."
If Jesus of Nazareth had any doubts about his purpose in life, the power of the baptismal experience affirms him in his identity and confirms him in his mission. In this moment of Baptism we hear and see how his life is completely God's and not his own. That's the really remarkable thing about Jesus. His life is lived for God and flowing from that single-minded purpose his life is lived for others.
But what about us who share in his life through our baptism?
Is Jesus' person and mission the driving force in our lives?
Is our relationship with Jesus what gives us purpose?
Listen again to the beginning of the gospel.
John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him . Can you imagine Jesus coming toward you? Whom do you see?
Do you see him as the teacher, the rabbi who shows you how to live? Do you see him as the savior, the one makes your relationship with God right and just? Do you see him as a friend, who invites you into intimacy with God in a way that no one else who has ever lived can?
Do you see him as the Way when you have lost your perspective and can not see where to go? Do you behold him as the Truth when you don't really know what to believe anymore? Do you behold him as the Life when you are not sure about the meaning of life at all?
On this Second Sunday of Ordinary time, we hear that Jesus is coming toward us. We are invited to "Look and see" who he is and who is he for us and for our world. In the weeks to come, we will see him and hear him. Perhaps he will even help us to answer the question:
"What on earth are we here for?"