The Meaning and Purpose of Life
"The meaning of life is to prepare to be with God in heaven." -It is really that simple. Or, perhaps you may prefer Father John Corapi's straightforward statement- "In the end, there is Heaven or there is Hell. Period. Exclamation point!"
In other words, our lives here on earth are but a pilgrimage to our everlasting destination, which is to be forever united with God in heaven, or forever separated from Him in Hell.
Why does God allow the very young or innocent people to die tragic deaths?
It is a perennial question of humanity who often asks why God allows and permits the loss of loved ones at such a tender age, or why for example He allows great tragedies and the great loss of innocent lives during natural disasters such as earthquakes or tsunamis? Sometimes these events in our lives cause us to contemplate our own mortality. I believe this is the grace of God in an effort to move and turn our hearts and minds towards Him.
To such a question I think the Catholic church offers the response that we are only in this life for a short period of time, even if we live to the ripe old age of 90, such is but a moment in eternity, and that we are on a pilgrimage to our everlasting destination, which is to be forever present in infinite joy and love with God, or in damnation apart from Him.
A hundred and fifty years from now, no one presently here on this earth will be alive. What will it then have mattered whether we live to be age 9 or 90? However, what will have mattered then is how we have lived and spent the years that we were given to live here on earth, be they few or many---by "spent" I mean whether we chose to love God and to love others out of love for Him, or not. As John says in his Gospel "God is love" and also "Love is from God", and so those who choose to love, choose God.
In other words, if this life that we are presently living here on earth was everything, and was all that mattered, then the death of a young child or the great loss of life during a natural disaster for example would indeed be an absolute tragedy. But the reality is is that upon our deaths we are only really just beginning our true lives, which last forever in an eternal, everlasting life with God (or without Him), and so the only real tragedy then is eternal damnation, that is, eternal and everlasting separation from God.
And so ultimately, our existence is but a matter and exercise of our own choice to love or not, using one's gift of free will, to choose to love...to choose to be with God, or not. The soul of a newborn baby who dies is given the opportunity to make that very same choice, even though it was not given the opportunity to live out the deeds of its choice in a lifetime here on earth.
Anyway, assuredly this is a very deep subject, and I am certainly no theologian... I am just a simple layman, but this at least is my poor understanding of what the Catholic Church teaches. But let us not be afraid to "wade out into the deep", and to reflect upon this very important matter of our everlasting destination. This very important subject is what the Church calls "The Four Last Things"-----Heaven, Hell, Death and Judgement, and the Church encourages us to contemplate such matters, because in the end, it is all that really matters.
And so we can see that it is a good thing, really a grace of God, that we ponder upon the meaning of life, and contemplate our own mortality, because by doing so we are opening our hearts to God, and the essential Truths necessary for one's salvation.
Jesus, with his arms wide open, spread out with His hands nailed to the cross, thus removing and forgiving all of our sins, welcomes us into His Church...into the faith....the faith of our fathers. "Be not afraid" He tells us in the holy Gospel, "I go before you always. Come, follow Me, and I will give you rest".
The role of the Church in the salvation of our souls
Perhaps there are some reading these lines who might have left the Catholic faith, having become disaffected and disillusioned with the Catholic church perhaps because of the bad example of one or more of its pastors or members. But I think we must always keep in mind to distinguish between the Catholic Church and its pastors and/or members. Jesus instituted and founded His Church upon the Apostles, with Peter as their head. But who were these apostles that God Himself chose? Well, of course we have Peter who denied Him, and Judas who betrayed him, and handed him over to be put to a horrible death on the Cross. They were certainly far from being shining examples of holiness and virtue! And yet Jesus, being God, knew all this beforehand, telling Peter beforehand that he would deny him, and He also pointed out to John that Judas would betray Him. So what was God's point in choosing these sinful men as His apostles? It is that the teachings of Jesus, that is the "Deposit of Faith" contained within the Catholic Church, are separate from the "shepherds" or disciples who proclaim these teachings.
In other words, the essential teachings or doctrines of the Church that Jesus founded are perfect, because they come from God himself, but the disciples that proclaim them are certainly not perfect, and worse still, some like Judas, are even betrayers! And so, such is the need from the very onset to distinguish between the doctrines and teachings of God, that is, the "Deposit of Faith" given to the Catholic Church by Jesus, and then on the other hand the disciples that profess it.
Some Bishops and Priests make mistakes in judgment and decisions, not only in what concerns others, but also in what concerns their own personal lives, some causing scandals by their lives of sin, and scandalizing the faithful. But once again, the line must be drawn and the distinction must be made on the one side between God and His church, and on the other side the members and their many faults and sins. We mustn't blame the Catholic church for the sins or faults of It's members!
Many of us have up to now lived a good part of our lives caught up solely in this material world, seeking after possessions and wealth that we cannot take with us. I reminds me of a statement of a Priest friend of mine who once said- "I have officiated and have been to a good many funerals, but I have never seen a hearse towing a U-Haul behind it!" In other words, you don't take it with you. And many of us have lived thus far unconcerned about God and the next life, as if we would never die... as if he would be here forever!....How foolish we are! But let us receive and use the grace that God has given us in the present fleeting moments...in these moments that remain for us, and let us gratefully inherit and live out the faith of our fathers, the holy Catholic faith!
"..But these three remain: Faith, Hope and Love. And the greatest of these is love" (1 Corinthians 13:13)