People are always searching for meaning. We read books, go on retreats, study other religions, go into sweat lodges, learn to meditate, all so we can try and find what it’s all about. Well I have the answer! Really I do. No I can’t tell you just yet. You will have to read on.
See people like spiritual things to be complicated, or at least they expect them to be complicated. We don’t usually trust something too simple. To find the answer to life, the universe, and everything, we expect to have to climb a very tall mountain in some distant country, find a teacher and spend years studying with him. People make millions of dollars giving talks, writing books, and holding retreats by complicating the process so you have to keep going back to them to get more of the answer. Hogwash! (I think that will be my word of the day!)
Spirituality is simple. The real answer is simple. So simple that you won’t believe me or take it seriously. Now don’t misunderstand me, simple does not mean easy. Meditation is simple, just sit still, breathe, and focus on one thing, but ask anyone who has ever tried it, it is anything but easy. Same with the meaning of life. The answer is fairly simple, but applying it is hard. Living it takes sacrifice.
Jesus taught in stories, we call them parables, but they are stories none the less. So I will tell you a story that contains the meaning of life. I don’t know if this actually happened, but regardless the story is true. St. John the Apostle was the only one of the twelve to not be martyred. He is said to have lived to be very old. When he was old he couldn’t walk anymore. So whenever they came together to celebrate the Lord’s Supper they would carry him in and sit him in a chair. It is said that he would only say one phrase, the same one every time they brought him in. He would whisper, “Little children, love each other.”
When our priest told us that story, I simply thought oh that’s nice, and moved on. It wasn’t till a few years later that I really began to think about it. I was laying in my bunk in prison and it just hit me. I sat straight up. All around me were guys yelling at each other, slamming dominoes, the usual chaos of prison, but in the middle of all that I felt wonder and peace. Yes it is simple, love each other. And in that place far from love, I found the importance of love.
I know you are rolling your eyes at me. This sounds trite, I know.
The Baltimore Catechism famously states that the meaning of life is, “To love God, serve Him, and to be happy with Him in this world and the next.” Usually the way I state it is that we were made by Love, for Love. I don’t remember where I heard that from, but it is the best answer.
I am not talking about romantic love here. I mean real love, self-sacrificing love. The love a mother has for her children when she works two jobs to keep them feed and clothed. Love is the answer. Jesus tells us we are to love God and love our neighbor, but He also stresses that we have to love our enemy. We have to stop blaming, accusing, and attacking. Yes, we have to even stop retaliating against those who hurt us. If love is the answer we have to not only not retaliate, we have to forgive, and then try and reconcile. We have to stop being petty and playing the victim. St. Terese the Little Flower calls this being a victim of love.
God put us here to love Him and to love each other. That’s it. That’s the meaning of life. It’s so simple, but so hard.