Fr. Sebastian Athappilly (Interviewed by Roshan)
Q: While for many people the purpose of life may not be explicitly talked about at home, the school or the workplace, many of us are constantly faced with the implicit message that the purpose of life is to become materially rich. So, the purpose of life comes to be seen as getting a ‘good’ job, a big house or whatever. This is something that is pervasive in society in the education system and the media and even in our homes. Through this subtle but pervasive propaganda, people come to define the purpose of life in essentially materialistic terms. How do you see this?
A: It is true, as you have observed, that the prevalent view in the society in terms of the implicit lived message is that the purpose of life is securing a materially well-off situation in terms of wealth, health, job, position, power, etc. But although these are good values, they are not the ultimate values. We can help ourselves and others by reminding ourselves and them that all material things are perishable and that our own death will make an end to our possession of all these good things. We should not be then at the loser’s side when death takes away all what we have amassed. To survive and overcome this loss at the hands of death we need something that transcends death itself. The assurance that God has prepared an indestructible state of affairs for those who live according to His will shall not make us desperate in the face of the sure death. We have to store up “treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal”(Bible: Mt 6:20).
Q: God has bestowed each of us with a particular calling in life, and following that calling may be said to be the means for us to fulfil the purpose of our life. How do you think we might be able to discern this calling?
A: It should not be absolutely impossible to discern the calling of God, for it makes no sense that God calls us and yet would give us no clue to this calling! The providential turnings in our life, as long as we are on a sincere search for our individual vocation, will tell us about what God wants from us. This includes the voice of our conscience, inspirations from reading Holy Scriptures and the lives of holy persons and the messages of our life experiences and encounters with certain persons and events. Listening to the voice of God in the spirit of prayer and meditation is very helpful in this regard.
Q: It is said that we should seek to do God’s will, not our will. This could be said to be the way to fulfil our life’s purpose. How do you think we can discern God’s will for us?
A: Discerning God’s will for us has certain norms. Our God-given talents and skills can give us a general idea of the way we are expected to glorify God in this world. In order to be clearer about this we need the help of a spiritual guide, who can help us open our spiritual eyes. The discerning should take place in the spirit of prayer and openness to God.
(Fr. Sebastian Athappilly can be contacted on [email protected])