The philosophy of Christ is very different from the philosophies of our modern culture. In fact, they are completely opposed to each other. And yet, the teachings of Christ and these modern philosophies both claim to be the key to the fulfillment of a yearning that is common to us all. Both claim that if we follow them, we will find the happiness and contentment we are seeking in this life.
Our Quest For Happiness
Every human heart yearns for happiness like the desert yearns for rain. This desire is universal, common to every member of the human family. We simply desire to be happy, and we act from this desire. We often do things that we think will make us happy, but only ends up making us miserable. The modern day search for happiness is governed by Individualism, Hedonism, Minimalism and their fruits: greed, lust, laziness, gluttony, selfishness, exploitation, and deception. And yet, as these philosophies become more and more prevalent, people seem to be filled with more discontentment and unhappiness each day. We often do things that we think will make us happy, but ends up making us miserable. Is it possible that these philosophies cannot deliver what they promise? Is it possible that there is something lacking in these philosophies that makes it impossible for a person to find happiness through them?
God wants us to be happy and He gave us the yearning for happiness that preoccupies our hearts. The philosophy of Christ is the ultimate philosophy of human happiness, although we may catch glimpses of happiness living outside of it. We may taste happiness for a moment while living contrary to the philosophy of Christ, but these are just stolen moments in time. They may seem real, but they are just shadows of something that is infinitely greater.
The Attitude of Christ
Jesus never asked, “What’s in it for me?” He was not motivated by self-love type of creed; he was motivated by a spirit of service. Jesus proclaimed a life of self-denial, saying, “Whoever wishes to follow me, let him deny himself and take up his cross (Matthew 16:24).” He certainly didn’t ask himself, “What is the least I can do and still bring salvation to humanity?” No, he asked, “What is the most I can do?”
The attitude of Christ forms a stark contrast to the philosophies of Individualism, Hedonism, Minimalism, Relativism and Materialism. The life that Jesus invites us to live is very different than the lifestyle our modern culture invites us to live. The modern culture encourages us to do whatever we want, wherever we want, whenever we want. On the other hand, Jesus invites us to a life of discipline. We are called not to be followers, but to be his disciple, which requires discipline. Christ invites us to a life of discipline not for his sake, but for our sake; not to help him, but to help us; not to make him happy, but to allow us to share in his happiness.
The Role of Discipline
Jesus said, “I have come so you may have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10).” The path that leads to “fullness of life” is discipline. When we eat well, exercise often, and sleep regularly, we feel more fully alive physically. When we love, have significant relationships of our lives and give of ourselves to help others in their journey, we feel more fully alive emotionally. When we study, we feel more fully alive intellectually. When we come before God in prayer, openly and honestly, we experience life more fully spiritually. All of these endeavors require discipline.
When are we most fully alive? Answer – When we embrace a life of discipline. Are you thriving? Or are you just surviving? Many people consider Jesus irrelevant today because he proposes a life of discipline.
Is discipline then the core of Jesus’ philosophy? Answer – No. Christ proposes a life of discipline not for its own sake, and certainly not to control us; rather, he proposes discipline as the key to freedom. In the world today, we find ourselves enslaved and imprisoned by a thousand different whims, cravings, addictions, and attachments. We think that freedom is the ability to do whatever we want, wherever we want, whenever we want, without interference from any authority. But, freedom is not the ability to do whatever you want. Freedom is the strength of character to do what is good, true, noble, and right. Freedom without discipline is impossible. Someone questioned Our Lord, saying, “Teacher, which is the greatest of the Commandments?” Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets (Matthew 22:37-40).” Love is the core of Jesus’ philosophy. But, in order to love you must be free. For to love is to give yourself freely and without reservation. Yet, to give yourself to another person, or an endeavor, or to God; you must first possess yourself. This possession of self is freedom, and the quest for love is attained only through discipline.
Love is our destiny. Our yearning for happiness is a yearning for love. We were created to love and be loved and we seek to fulfill that purpose. “God is love (1 John 4:8),” and our yearning for happiness is ultimately a yearning for God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church wastes no time in addressing this truth. The opening point of Chapter One, Section One, reads, “The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will man find the truth and happiness he never stops yearning for.”
Until next time, God bless.