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Catholic Sentinel | Portland, OR Thursday, March 23, 2017

Quo Vadis 2017

Home : Faith/Spirituality : Archbishop Sample's Column
6/14/2016 10:20:00 AM
What is a 'successful' life?

Most Rev. Alexander Sample
Archbishop of Portland


Now that the spring confirmation season is over and I am off what Archbishop Vlazny called the “Chrism Trail,” I would like to share with all of you my essential message to the young people this year.  It centered on helping our young people understand “who” they are and “why” they are. These are two fundamental questions that all of us must ask and must answer, not just our youth. To make my point, I went back to the Baltimore Catechism with which so many of an older generation are very familiar. I asked two specific questions that had to be memorized by students.

Who made you? It was delightful to hear those who had been educated using the Baltimore Catechism immediately respond, “God made me.”  This may seem like an obvious and overly simplistic question and answer, but it is actually very profound.  In order to understand who we are, we need to reflect more deeply on this point.  God made me.

Each of us comes directly from the hand of God. Our bodies may be the biological result of the union of our father and mother, but our soul comes straight from the hand of the Creator. Our soul is created immediately by God and infused into our body at the moment of conception (as most theologians agree).  This means that each of us as an individual is not an accident, or some random human being that was created through a natural process. We are planned and wanted by God. We were intended to exist by his divine will.  This affords each human person a profound dignity as one desired and created by God.

Our soul is really who we are. Our intelligence, free will, imagination, memory and even our personality are in our soul.  This helps us understand who we are. With all our individuality, our gifts, talents and goodness, along with our weaknesses and faults, we are unique persons created in the image and likeness of God, although wounded by original sin. But why do we exist? Why did God choose to make us? Why did God make YOU?

This gets to the meaning and purpose of our existence — of our life. And happily many responded properly to this question.  “God made me to know him, to love him, and to serve him in this world, and to be happy with him forever in heaven.” It really is as simple as all that.  And yet we too often forget this essential fact and live our lives as if this were not front and center.

God made us to know him. He is not some vague and impersonal force or supreme being that simply holds the universe together — the force of the "Star Wars" saga. God does that, but he is so much more.  He is a personal God who created us to know him as he has known us. God has known each of us individually from all eternity. We have always been in the mind and heart of God, long before he created the first angel or said “Let there be light.”  There was never a “time” when God did not know us. And now he wants us to know him, our Creator, in a very real and personal way.

And he made us to love him. It was purely out of his own goodness and love that he made each of us individually. He loved us first.  He wanted to create a creature outside of himself who could then return his love and enter into a love relationship with him. How incredible that is! We exist to love God. How terribly sad it is that so many people go through life and never discover this essential reason for our existence.  

Having come to know and love God, we must serve him. Not out of a slavish sense of service, but out of love. It is because we love him that we want to do anything and everything for him. Remember what it was like when you first came to deeply love another person. You wanted to do everything to please that person.  That is how it is with God.  

Whatever our path is in life, whether married, single, as a priest or religious, our whole life must serve God. Our whole life, not just the part we give God on Sunday. Even in our work or career, everything we do must be seen in this light of serving God.
All of this happens in this world so that one day we may be happy with him forever in the Kingdom of Heaven. And that is the ultimate purpose and destination of our life.  We are made for eternity.  The soul we have spoken of is immortal. It will not and cannot die. God desires — he created us — so we would one day know face to face his goodness and love forever. If we would keep that in mind every day, it would shape every choice and decision we make. It would truly guide us toward eternity.

We are caught up in so many concerns and decisions in daily life. We are concerned about where I want to go to college, if I want to go to college, whether I want to marry or become a priest or religious, if I marry, how many children I might want, where I want to live, what kind of career I want, etc.  These are all important and good things to consider, but I must never forget the real meaning and purpose of my life.  

We all want to be “successful” in life. But what is true success? At the end of our life, only one thing will matter. How have I come to know, love and serve God?  To the degree that I have done that, that will be the ultimate measure of success.



Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, June 17, 2016
Article comment by: Mark L

Great article about the very of core and purpose of our existence. It is a good reminder to focus on the most important thing of life, our relationship with Christ.

Posted: Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Article comment by: Rolando Rodriguez

Yes, respected and beloved pastor, "We all want to be 'successful' in life." But what is true success?" Submission to the will of God, or as our Muslim sisters and brothers profess, "Islam."



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