The Meaning of Life Is …

User's Guide to Sunday, July 10

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Sunday, July 10, is the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C). Mass Readings: Deuteronomy 30:10-14; Psalms 69:14, 17, 30-31, 33-34, 36-37; Colossians 1:15-20; Luke 10:25-37.

Today’s readings answer a great philosophical question that has occupied great minds — and angst-filled teenagers — throughout history: What is the meaning of life?

That is basically what a scholar of the Law asks Jesus in the Gospel: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

To fully appreciate the answer, we have to look at the first reading. When Moses is confronted by the same question in his day, he responds by pointing out that we who ask the question already know the answer.

“This command that I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you. It is not up in the sky, that you should say, ‘Who will go up in the sky to get it for us and tell us that we may carry it out?’ Nor is it across the sea,” says Moses. “No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.”

Jesus tells the scholar the same thing: You don’t need to ask me what the meaning of life is. Tell me yourself what you know it to be. The man answers: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

Exactly, says Jesus. Then he adds to the man’s answer the key phrase Moses added: “Do this, and you will live.”

That’s the hard part.

The truth is, we all know the meaning of life: We are here to love God and our neighbors and to do God’s will.

But it is so hard that Jesus points out that religious experts get the “doing” part of it wrong all the time. He tells the story of the Good Samaritan, a member of a hostile religious faith, who serves a victim of robbers after religious leaders pass by the victim. It is obvious to us that the Good Samaritan’s response is the right one. But it is not at all easy to follow his example.

One thing that might make it easier is focusing on the first half of the equation: True love of God leads to love for neighbor.

It especially does so for us, because we know something about the meaning of life that the scholar of the Law and the priest and Levite in the Good Samaritan parable didn’t. We know the truth of today’s second reading.

It is a majestic reading that answers another meaning-of-life question: “Why does anything exist at all?”

“Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation,” it says. “All things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. … He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be pre-eminent.”

The full passage, Colossians 1:15-20, is a great one to meditate on. It puts everything in the universe in perspective, with Jesus Christ in the center and the Church and the cross holding us in his orbit.

So there you have it, the answer everyone is looking for. What is the meaning of my life? To love God and neighbor. Why does anything exist at all? Because God wanted to share his love, incarnate in Jesus, with us in the Church.

The answers are simple, but the implications are endlessly fascinating.

 

Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.

His book What Pope Francis Really Said is available for preorder at Amazon.com.

Maximilien Luce's The Good Samaritan, Wikicommons/public domain


 

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, and the Mississippi River are seen from East St. Louis, Illinois, on June 27. Following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision on June 24, abortion is now banned in Missouri. The nearest clinics to St. Louis are across the river in Illinois, including a Planned Parenthood in Fairview Heights that was opened in 2019 in anticipation of the overturn of Roe v. Wade.

Welcome to Post-Roe America

Every year on the anniversary of Dobbs, Catholics will be able to deepen their understanding of God’s role in the conception of every child, his care for the child’s growth, his knowing each by name, and the future for which he has given each child life.