Posts Tagged ‘Meaning of Life’

Learning the Meaning of Life

Sunday, January 18th, 2015

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sam 3: 3b-10, 19; 1 Cor 6: 13c-15a, 17-20; John 1: 35-42

Deacon Larry Brockman


So, what is the purpose of life?  The first thing we have to do to understand the meaning and purpose of our lives is to recognize that God is trying to communicate with us about just that all the time.

In the first reading, we see young Samuel learning this lesson.  Samuel is dreaming about someone calling to him- but he doesn’t recognize who or what it is.  Not once, not twice, but three times he has the same dream; and only with the help of Eli does Samuel recognize it for what it truly is-  God calling him and asking him to listen to him in a dream.

Now let’s hold on to that thought for a moment and talk about it because you are probably thinking “Is God talking to me in my dreams”?  Maybe, and maybe not. But you see, that isn’t the point.  The point is that whether it is- a dream; a funny feeling or fleeting impression when we are awake; something we read; something we see; or something we experience- whatever it might be- God is trying to talk to us all the time.  We just need to be open to it; we need to listen to him.

Some time ago my wife and I watched the film “About Schmidt”.  The main character in the film, Warren Schmidt, was ably played  by Jack Nicholson;  Warren saw a TV add called “Child Reach”, calling for folks to sponsor a poor child in the third World for $22 a month.  Moved by compassion, Warren sponsors a child named Ndugu.  Now Warren is a man who holds it all in- and doesn’t have anyone to share his anger or frustration with.  He retires after having devoted his life to his job at the expense of spending time with his family.  Then he discovers he wasn’t appreciated by his company; he loses his wife; and he finds himself frustrated by his daughter’s choice of a mate.

And so, throughout the film, we hear Warren venting his anger in letters to his foster-child Ndugu.  At the end of the film, Warren is feeling very, very discouraged and despondent over all his misfortunes.  He doesn’t see the value in his life.  And then, all of a sudden, he gets a letter from Ndugu’s teacher who talks about how much Warren’s sponsorship has meant, and how much Ndugu loves him.  Ndugu has also sent a crayon drawing.  It shows a smiling Ndugu linked hand in hand with Warren, and a great big bright sun shining in the background.  And Warren cries, because he can see that he has made a difference after all.

It is just a story, yes; but the point is clear.  God nudges, cajoles, and whispers to us all the time.  And some of the time, we are not even conscious that we have responded.  But the little voice inside has made its mark, and we do things responding to our call by God.  These things are part of God’s plan, and they can make a big difference.  We just never know when we will get such a call  It could happen when you are on a cruise, for example, right there on the open sea, in the midst of 3,000 people, most of whom have put God on the sidelines for the duration;  and yes, it can even happen when you analyze one of your dreams.  But the point is that it is happening all the time.  God is calling you to do his thing for you.

Second, the message and mission God has for you is personal, much more personal than you might think.  Samuel’s message was certainly in that category; and so was the message to the Apostles in the Gospel.

When we read how God called people in the Bible, or when we hear stories about great saints who have responded to God’s call like St. Paul or Mother Theresa or Saint Francis, it was personal; it was directed to them and was specific to them.   Our calls are personal as well.  And likely they are right there unfolding for us- right in front of us. like helping a stranger when you’re on a ship.

And the fact that God is calling us to something right in front of us is both a relief and a challenge.  It is a relief because more often than not, we are not being asked to make a drastic change in our lives.  Rather, we are just being asked to be a little more sensitive; a little more giving in our own situations.  But it is a challenge, because it means making a sacrifice, the kind of sacrifice that involves putting our personal goals on the back burner.

Our gospel today demonstrates this so well.  These men that became Apostles were called quietly one by one.  And they left to follow Jesus.  It all started out slowly, but ended up changing their lives forever.

As you begin your new year, now is the perfect time for you to listen carefully for God’s voice in your lives.  If you can stop the train you are on, and find the time to reflect reflect- that would be great.  Maybe the days you spend on vacation, like a cruise, are a way to help you find the time.  So, listen for it; be ready for it.  Put aside the many forms of self-absorption when the call comes.  Make a sacrifice; say “Speak your servant is listening”.  And God will say to you: “Come and see”.