Purpose Driven

(Homily for Thirty-Third Sunday, Year B)

Life is an adventure or it is nothing at all. – Stephen Antonow

A priest friend recommended Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Although I have not yet finished it (the course involves devoting one day to each of the forty meditations) I must admit that I am enjoying it.* Pastor Warren uses simple illustrations and Bible quotes (some paraphrased) to lay out the basic Christian teachings as a plan for life. In doing so he fulfills a great need.

We live in a culture, which to the degree that it accepts the Darwinist philosophy, denies that life has a purpose.** Sure, it suggests various goals: learning, good health, relaxation, entertainment, financial security, retirement and the self-esteem that comes from approval of others and a job well done. But none of this can really be called a purpose. It's like trying to capture smoke with ones hand - it simply slips through the fingers.

We can backshift the question by saying that we are living, working, making sacrifices for some other person(s). That is noble, but it begs the question: If your purpose is other people, what then is their purpose?

As Rick Warren points out, we cannot create a purpose for our lives. We can only discover what it is. Our purpose comes from being part of a design. Although naturalists speak about “nature” having a “design” they do not explain what they mean by those words. Only a person – a mind, an intelligence – can design something. Without that, the universe has no real story – just a series of interlocking events. And our own lives have no more meaning than a storm on Jupiter or a slug moving along a Seattle sidewalk.

Jesus presents a different view in today’s Gospel. He speaks about a coming trial followed by the dissolution of the natural world, then judgment. Human history will have a last act, a final curtain. Our lives are part of a coherent drama. But the drama opens out to eternity – and our lives here are like a screening or dress rehearsal for the roles we will have forever.

A Holy Family parishioner who died last May vividly illustrated the drama of human life. I quoted him above: Life is an adventure or it is nothing at all. Steve was a bright man with many beautiful gifts. At the same time, he had his own cross – a same sex attraction which led him into lifestyle that caused destruction to himself and others. He had sunken into a self-made hell. Steve saw that any lifestyle which makes sexual fulfillment its prime object would inevitably have certain traits: consumerism, pornography, drugs, alcohol, promiscuity and the shelving of those who no longer have beautiful bodies.

By God's mercy and the help of a movement called Courage, Steve found the strength to come out of that lifestyle. He embarked on the greatest adventure – the striving for holiness, the desire to love God with ones whole heart. It was a daily struggle - sometimes with setbacks, other times with triumphs. He knew he faced a radical choice: holiness or hell. So do we all. Unfortunately, we often do not see things as clearly as someone like Steve did.

About a year and a half ago Steve began experiencing sharp abdominal pains, insomnia and nausea. When he finally went to the doctor, he received a terrible diagnosis: pancreatic cancer. Steve did not hide his feelings from any of us, but he also recognized his illness, with its bitter pain, was not the ultimate absurdity – but rather an integral part of the adventure to which God had called him.

I have seen very few people die with the kind of clear-head faith that Steve possessed. Years earlier he had seen the futility of trying to create his own meaning. He surrendered to God and discovered the purpose, the adventure God had prepared for him.


*From a Catholic perspective, I find little to criticize in Pastor Warren's approach. Ironically, my major objection so far is that he seems over-reliant on the efficacy of works for salvation. Rick Warren's Saddleback Church, like certain Catholic parishes, strikes me as admirable, but somewhat hyper-organized.

**Phillip Johnson, law professor at the University of California at Berkeley argues: "Rather than being a subject for rational discussion in the classroom, Darwinism is now protected orthodoxy—and has acquired all the bad habits of an established religion."

Versión Castellana

From Archives (Homilies for 33rd Sunday, Year B):

2012: The Last Things
2009: Like the Stars
2006: God's Election and Human Choice
2003: Purpose Driven
2000: The Final Recount

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Bulletin (Stewardship & Feasibility Study)


Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

When Spouses Speak the Truth With Their Bodies (Bishop Victor Galeone on God's Plan for Marriage)

Stewardship Talk (Roberto Cayetano & Family)

St. Mary of the Valley Album

(November 2009)

Pictures from Peru

Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)

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