Catholic Values Column: The meaning of life?


You know that cliché question that is always floating around: What is the meaning of life? It has always confounded me, not because I am in awe at the philosophical profoundness that it possesses, but because I think the question itself is quite overrated.

I’ve grown up with this question constantly buzzing around my ears. Coming from a public high school in the South, where Catholics were few and far in between, I have heard many different answers to this question. Most prominent were the secular science teachers, who were convinced that our sole purpose is to reproduce for the sake of evolution, to “progress” for the sake of future generations.

I suppose there were other views as well. We are meant to have fun. To get a good job and make lots of money. Just to get through life and nothing else. The list goes on and on.

Others still loved to ponder this question endlessly and refute everyone else’s answer without offering one of their own. But what I have always wondered is why. Why do we put so much effort into what should be a simple question?

Recently, a professor here, unbeknownst to him, made this reason very clear to me. He said: “We know who we are.” We, Christ’s Church, know that we are adopted children of God. We know that he made the world just for us, that we are the only creatures that he made for no other reason than out of his own desire to love.

What is the meaning of life? To know, love, and serve God. To give back to him a fraction of what he gives to us. When I hear that question, this is the answer that immediately comes to mind for me. It is so simple, and so easy to be overlooked, yet so important. It answers the question of why we exist, why we are. God not only created us, but he created us in his own image. He loves us, and all he asks in return is for us to get to know him, deeply love him, and do his will.

Knowing this is liberating. Who needs a Valentine to feel loved when you know that God loves you with his whole Triune Being? You are valued, in and of yourself, no matter what your peers here or anywhere else tell you.

Yet that brings us back to that professor’s statement: “We know who we are.” We know all this as Catholics, so we have no need to spare a second thought on that “profound” question about the meaning of life.

But not everyone in the world is Catholic. And not even all Catholics really know this simple truth. So that gives our answer more meaning.

You see, to know, love, and serve God is not just an answer; it is a call to action. All of our actions must be oriented toward God. To know him is to find him in every person, and we must both love and serve the God in everyone. We must show the world the meaning of life by living it.

Yes, this includes loving God in the child in the womb, loving God in the homeless person at the soup kitchen, loving God in all the people who serve our nation.

This also includes loving God in the teacher who assigns impossible loads of reading every day. It means loving God in your parents and siblings, regardless of if they love you back.

The early Christians were known as the men who turned the world upside down. I sure wish that is how we Christians were spoken of today! The early Church had a radical approach to life, living every moment for God’s glory. Can you say that about how you live your life?

If you can, I commend you. But if you’re like me, I’m sure many moments quickly come to mind of when you did not live in a way oriented towards knowing, loving, and serving God.

My task for you is this: Consciously live every moment of your life with that purpose in mind, both in the outside world and on campus. Will you slip sometimes? Definitely. We are descendants of Adam. But if you make every effort towards living your life in a way that honors God, thus living out your ultimate meaning, you will answer in your actions that age-old question: What is the meaning of life? I pray that when the world looks at you, it will get its answer.

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