Making a Life and not just a Living
Last week Jesus performed the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, and all the people who witnessed the amazing miracle wanted to make Jesus king. Making Jesus king was the same thing as asking him to lead them in a revolution against the Roman Empire. The Israelites at that time were an occupied territory, ruled by the Romans, so the people were looking for a revolutionary leader to help them win freedom.
But Jesus didn’t come to earth in order to spark a political revolution. He had a much bigger agenda, and so do His followers. He tries to explain this to them. He says: “Do not work for food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life.” True Christians, in other words, understand that real fulfilment comes from more than just making a living; it comes from making a life.
Many of our Lord’s most famous sayings taught the same lesson: “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:4), for example, and “seek first the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33), and “what does a man gain if he wins the whole world but loses his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).
Our life on earth is preparation for something greater; our citizenship is in heaven, and here on earth, as the Letter to the Hebrews puts it, “We have no lasting city” (Hebrews 13:14). It is certainly no sin to desire and to work for happiness here on earth, as long as we have the right expectations. Jesus is very clear in telling us that the complete fulfilment and permanent satisfaction that our hearts long for will never be found here on earth. All the pains and pleasures of this world, all the accomplishments and achievements that look good on a college application or a CV or on ‘This is your life’, these are all passing things. We were made for greater things, for eternal life with God in heaven.
Here is how Pope Benedict XVI explained it just days before he was elected Pope:
“All people desire to leave a lasting mark. But what endures? Money does not. Even buildings do not, nor books. After a certain time, longer or shorter, all these things disappear. The only thing that lasts forever is the human soul, the human person created by God for eternity.”
It is a healthy thing for us to ask ourselves where we are looking for our true happiness: From the satisfactions of this world, or from our everlasting friendship with Jesus Christ? One thermometer for this aspect of our spiritual lives is our use of our leisure. People banking on perfect happiness in this passing world often give top priority to leisure They tend to live for the weekend or for the holidays. They tend to spend all their free time indulging in their favourite hobby. They can tend to become easily upset if something prevents them from watching the ‘match’ or seeing their favourite TV programme.
But people who are truly working for ‘food that endures’ are more balanced in their use of their time. They more easily recognize that the purpose of ‘leisure time’ is to help us relax and re-create, restoring our energies so that we can keep on striving to fulfil our life mission with our families and community. They don’t live for the weekends; they use the weekends to help them live life more fully.
As Jesus renews his commitment to us in the Mass this weekend, let’s ask Him to help us renew our commitment to Him, so that while we continue working for a living this coming week, we don’t lose sight of what it’s really all about, ‘Making a life’, an eternal life, with Christ, Mary, and the saints.
Fr David Jones OLW