Thomas Merton once said, “If you want to know who I am, do not ask me where I live or what I like to eat or how I comb my hair. Ask me what I am living for.” It is a terrifying question, isn’t it? What am I living for? It invites us to face our deepest value. It calls us to name that which directs our lives. In Merton’s question a second question is implied: “Is what I am living for enough?” Enough to warrant the life that I have been given.
So in today’s homily I would like us to face this question. What are we living for? What force is directing my life? There might be some here today living for the end of their education, looking beyond college or graduate studies to go on with life. That is a valuable goal. But is it enough? Others here might be living for retirement. Such a purpose would be understandable and deserved. But is it enough? Still others here might be living for their grandchildren. What a joy they are. But is it enough to live for?
John the Baptist might help us as we struggle with Merton’s question, because John the Baptist is very clear about what he is living for. He is living to be a part of God’s plan for the world. John knew that God was going to send Jesus to save us. John understood that he had a role to play in that plan. So, all that John did—his teaching, his work in the desert—were all aimed at bringing that plan to fruition. As he says in the gospel, “I came baptizing with water so that he might be known to Israel.” John points to Jesus and says, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” That’s all that John needed to do, because that is what he was living for.
Today’s gospel invites us to understand that the lives we live have a part to play in God’s plan for the world. When we graduate from college the knowledge we have learned is more than just a way to earn a living. It is a part of God’s plan to make a better world. Finding the way that we can use our knowledge for God’s purposes gives meaning to our life. Retirement is not simply a way to rest. The time and opportunities of retirement are meant to be for God’s purpose. Discovering how we can use our experience and talents in new ways to serve God’s will is deeply satisfying. Spending time with our grandchildren is not just a way to make us happy. It is a part of God’s plan. The love and wisdom we share with them will one day be love and wisdom for their own children and enrich the future society in which they live.
When we choose to use our talents and opportunities as a part of God’s plan, we find a deeper meaning for living. God is able to use our simple actions for his own good purpose. That is something worth living for. That is always enough, because there is no greater joy than being able to participate in God’s plan to love and save the world.