Just for Catholics

What Are We Living For?

What are we living for? What does life mean? Is it perhaps a stage-play -- are we here to act our part for a few brief moments, only to disappear behind the stage forever? Or is life a trip that takes us somewhere, and if so, what is our final destination?

Please think about this crucial issue and answer for yourself: What am I living for? What values do I embrace? What objectives am I attempting to reach?

Near the end of his life, the world-famous singer, Freddie Mercury, drew up his accounts to see what profit he had managed to obtain. Actually he was an extremely gifted musical artist and had attained to rare heights of popularity. He lived a kind of life that pleased him, and besides fame, he became a millionaire. But apparently nothing enjoyed a lasting value in his estimation when he looked back at the end of his earthy journey. He had laid his grip on whatever the world had to offer - but he hardly had an answer to the question he asked before his death: "What are we living for?" The words of his melancholic song are haunting:

Empty spaces - what are we living for
Abandoned places - I guess we know the score
On and on
Does anybody know what we are looking for

Another hero, another mindless crime
Behind the curtain in the pantomime
Hold the line
Does anybody want to take it anymore?

Many centuries before him, the Bible mentions another man, Solomon, who had similar conflicts. He describes his ambition to discover new things, his love of philosophy and about his grandiose projects. He was wealthy and knew how to enjoy and make the best out of life. To quote him: "Whatever my eyes desired I did not refuse it to them; I did withhold no joy from my heart."

All his dreams became reality. But the time came when Solomon too had to settle his accounts. His conclusion is as follows: "Then I considered what my hands have done, and the labour, and behold, everything was vanity and racing after the wind." Vanity...racing after the wind! When he exchanged his dreams into reality, he discovered that reality is but a dream and an illusion.

Isn't this our common experience? We pursue soap bubbles, enchanted by their bright colours; we grasped them in the palms of our hands, only to see them vanish into nothingness.

Still, it seems we cannot live without a purpose. Something within us impels us to continue pursuing our dreams. Like a thirsty man lost in a dry desert we roam about seeking for water to satisfy the thirst of our soul.

What a tragedy it will be if at the very end you realize that your dreams were nothing but dreams! Then you look back when it is too late to realize that your life is of no value and vain. You realize that you never found water, and when you thought you found it, it was only a mirage. Not to say anything about the fear of having to face the dismal prospect of death without knowing what to find or where you are going.

The question becomes more urgent: Why are we living? What's the purpose of my life? A tree produces fruit. A skylark sings on high. And I, a human being, what's my whole purpose in life? What is that immense space in my soul that cannot be filled by the whole world? What is that thirst that many waters cannot quench?

At one time, a lawyer approached the Lord Jesus and asked him: "Master, which is the great commandment in the law?" His question has to do with the purpose of life because God's law is not arbitrary. It corresponds to the purpose for which he created us, just as the computer manufacturer provides an instruction manual according to the qualities and functions of his product. God never commanded us to fly, simply because he did not furnish us with wings. But whatever he commanded us to do, that is the very purpose he made us to fulfill.

How then did the Lord reply to the question: "What is the greatest commandment?" or, in other words, "What is the chief aim of man?" Jesus answered: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your understanding. This is the first and greatest commandment."

"What are we living for?" According to the Lord Jesus, the whole purpose of our existence is to love our Maker. Augustine expressed this sublime truth in these words: "We are created for you, and our soul finds no rest until it finds rest in you."

And yet the student assumes that he will find rest as soon as he gets a pass mark in his exams. The teenager thinks that he will find fulfillment in dating, music and drink. Engaged couples think that they will be content when they get married, build their little house, and have their first child. The employee thinks he will rest when he retires. The poor man, when he gets rich. The rich, when he obtains more riches. And on and on it goes.

I am not saying that these endeavours have the same value, or that they are wrong in and of themselves. I am simply pointing out that we human beings are prone to make a stupid choice. We put something - whether it is good or bad - before or instead of God. We assiduously attempt to fill that vast space in our soul with something that is not God.

In the Bible, God complains: "They have deserted me, a fountain of living water, and have hewn for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water."

Perhaps you prefer to close your eyes to the fact that the cistern you are digging is dry and arid. You see, thirst compels you to believe that eventually you will find some water. But God knows what he's saying: You will never find water anywhere except at the only fountain of living water. In God alone.

At one time, the Lord Jesus stood up and cried out: "If anybody thirsts, let him come to me and drink." His invitation still resounds today, with relevance and urgency, even for you. "Come unto me."

Dr Joseph Mizzi. Permission is given to reproduce and distribute this article in any format provided that the wording is not altered and that no fee is charged. Please include the following statement on distributed copies:
Dr Joseph Mizzi. Website: www.justforcatholics.org. Used by permission.