What is the meaning of life? That’s a question that has troubled many throughout history and remains a quest for many today. Sadly, many fail to find the answer.
As Christians, however, we need only turn to our faith. We know that God created us out of nothing, as an act of love — essentially “loving us into existence.” He did this so that we might experience his love and choose to live with him forever in the perfect happiness of heaven. The old Baltimore Catechism summed up the purpose of life well when it said, “God made me to know him, to love him, and to serve him in this world, and to be happy with him forever in the next.”
For men of faith, the meaning of life is Jesus Christ, said Douglas Bushman, theologian and professor at the Augustine Institute in Denver.
“He is the pearl of great price. You would sell everything else in order to have your friendship with Jesus,” Bushman said. “That’s essentially the meaning of life.”
Christopher Pereyra, chief executive officer of the Tepeyac Leadership Initiative, a program helping Catholic professionals advance the mission of the Church, explained, “We want to imitate Christ. We want to strive to become the best version of ourselves. That’s what striving to holiness is. Everything I have to do, every day, each day, I do it out of love.”
Bushman and Pereyra are among Catholic leaders who were interviewed for Into the Breach, a 12-episode video series produced by the Knights of Columbus. The series is inspired by on a 2015 apostolic exhortation by Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix in which he called upon Catholic men to live out their faith and vocation more fully so as to help revitalize families, communities, and the Church.
“Before anyone can become a man, he is first of all a son,” Bushman observed, noting that Christ’s whole life was oriented to his relationship with the Father and his preaching on the kingdom. His whole being and meaning of life comes from being the Son of the eternal Father.”.
Baptism makes us sons of God — not in the same sense as Jesus, but through adoption. We become part of God’s family. No matter what our experience of our earthly father might be, Bushman sad, “We have a heavenly Father who is perfect in his fatherhood and who loves us.”
The Gospel of Matthew records a parable of Jesus in which he praises a “wise man who built his house on a rock” (Mt 7:24-27). A fool who builds his house on sand finds it destroyed by storms and floods, whereas the house built on rock stands firm. Jesus explains that the wise man represents one who listened to the word fo God and acted upon them, whereas the fool represents one who heard his words and did not act upon them.
Jesus’ teachings are the rock, and by living according to those teachings we stand firm against the storms and moral challenges that threaten us. Jesus also named St. Peter “the rock” upon which he would build his Church (Mt 16:13-20). If we build our lives and our households upon the teachings of Christ and his Church, we will find strength and courage for the spiritual battles we must face throughout our lives — which is what we ought to do as sons of the Father.
For Clarence Gilyard, an actor best known for his role in the popular television series Walker, Texas Ranger, that lack of a spiritual “rock” came at a price. He slipped into patterns of marital infidelity and substance abuse, and he perceived his life having no real meaning.
Then, he accepted a friend’s invitation to attend Mass. The liturgy so inspired him that he later spoke with the priest and began preparing for the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA). He was received into the Church on Christmas Eve 1995.
He looks back at his acting career and how much effort he put into it.
“I was working seven days a week,” Gilyard said, and that’s what men must do with their vocations. “You have to put that kind of intensity into striving to be the spiritual leader of your family.”
“As I say in my acting classes, life is messy,” he said, “but God’s got it all under control.”
How does a man achieve that intensity? Matthew James Christoff, founder of The New Emangelization Project, points out that the word “disciple” is closely related to “discipline.” To become more like Christ, men must build a disciplined life based on prayer, the Mass and the sacraments. Things like daily mediation, Scripture reading, and examination of conscience, Mass at least weekly, and monthly confession can enhance this discipline.
“The other thing is to spend some time each month building a band of Catholic brothers,” said Christoff, founder of The New Emangelization men’s ministry. “A fraternity of Catholic men is what’s essential for men to row into the fullness of the faith.”
As adopted sons of God, we know our Heavenly Father gives us everything that is good. That awareness should imbue us with deep gratitude — and humility.
Even as we strive to become more like Christ, we must trust that the Father loves us as we are, in spite of our failings.
“I know in my own life I’ve spent many, many years seeking to make myself perfect so I would be acceptable to my Heavenly Father. But that’s not the truth,” said Mark Bartek, a regional director for the FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students.
“I became God’s son through the waters of baptism,” he said.“How often do you or I think about the impact of our baptism? Let baptism impact every day of your life from this point forward.”
To view episodes of the Into the Breach video series and to access the study guide and other resources for promoting the series in your parish, visit kofc.org/intothebreach.