Today Our Lord tells us in an unmistakably clear way that He is alone the answer to the deepest questions of our life.
All the important work of philosophy are summed up in these fundamental questions: What is life all about? What should I do? What can I know? What can I hope for? These are all questions oriented toward our fulfillment and our happiness.
However, you all know that happiness and success depend on how you define them and how you answer those deep fundamental questions about why we are here on this earth.
Remember that the real answer for the deepest questions of our life is Christ Jesus Himself. The problems of our world stem from the fact that people fall for other definitions of happiness or success that do not fully reach to Christ.
I recently heard a talk from a very very bright priest who defined four levels of happiness based on the collective genius of over 150 of the greatest philosophers of our world. In Fr. Spitzer's Article, he outlines those four types of happiness in this way.
First and lowest are physical things and experiences: a cool swim on a hot day, a deliciously prepared meal, and the excitement from driving a sports car. This is instant gratification, but when they're gone, so too goes the delight of them. Now, these are good as long as they aren't sinful, but they can't make you happy forever, and soon you get past their allure and seek for something higher.
Level 2 happiness is all about me: the ego-driven, self-aggrandizing, praise-hungry, power-seeking, self-made man who glories in being on top. It's not surprise that about 2/3 of Americans are stuck in this category of comparing ourselves to others and defining our value based off of others, instead of how God loves us. Success is not bad, but the problem is when it alone becomes the definition of our happiness and, since there's never any stopping this race for the top, it will eventually leave us jaded and bitter. Focusing solely on personal achievement can take up a big chunk of our lives, unless we move to the next level of happiness.
Level 3 Happiness derived from doing good for others and making the world a better place. Level 3 happiness is more enduring because it is directed toward the human desire for love, truth, goodness, beauty, and unity. This is focused on contributing to the common good, whether in a team, an organization, a local community, a parish, or in the world. This turns our heart more directly toward what we are called to. As Mother Teresa says, we were created to love and to be loved. This begins to get us there and satisfy our hearts more deeply.
Level 4 Ultimate, perfect happiness. When others fall short of our ideals, or we fall short ourselves, we’re disappointed. This disappointment points to a universal human longing for transcendence and perfection. We don’t merely desire love, truth, goodness, beauty, and unity; we want all of these things in their ultimate, perfect, never-ending form. All people have this desire for ultimacy, which psychologists call a desire for transcendence – a sense of connection to the larger universe. Some express this desire through spirituality and religious faith. Others express the same longing through philosophy, through art, or through scientific efforts to solve the mysteries of life and the universe.
This is where today's Gospel comes in: Jesus is the way the truth and the Life. We begin to discover that He is the one we were seeking all along. Here we can finally say with St. Augustine, "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you."