What is the meaning of life?
This is Labor Day weekend, a time to honor workers, those who give of themselves, their time and talent, to create something outside themselves. We honor work and works, the breathing of life into inanimate things, through design or imagination or usefulness.
We work to earn a living, to provide for our families. We bring home the dollar value of our labor, but in the process we have accomplished two works – the work for which we are paid and the work of caring for our families. And as we do this work for our spouses and children, we find our Heavenly Father close, in our midst, smiling. For he labored to create us, our world, and our universe.
Some work is more meaningful than other work. Some work we choose. Some work we do not. Some work we do out of obligation and duty to righteousness, to God. Some work we do from passion and love of the work itself or the people the work helps, and so we do not ask for pay, for the value is in our heart. We volunteer for these works. We are glad to be a part of something larger than ourselves, and in the giving of our time and talent we find meaning. We find God, our Heavenly Father, and he pulls us into his sacred beating heart.
We all want to find meaning in our lives, to color our daily pages bright and beautiful, carefully filling in the empty spaces, the emptiness, within the holy lines drawn for us by nature and nurture. We desire to know the why of our existence, of our neighbor’s existence, of the world’s existence. We want to find meaning.
Women were once told, and still are told, that meaning is found only in the workplace. While it is true that meaning is in the work we do, whatever it is, wherever it is, women have a unique work that is their crowning glory, for women give birth to new life. And not only is the woman able to give birth, after carrying the child within her own flesh and feeding that child with her own life-blood, she is given the joyous work of caring for the child after he or she is born. So a mother’s great work is her time in labor, as she labors to birth the child. It is a suffering work of love, and out of the pain will come joy. Soon she will labor in the home and this will become her sacred workplace.
If such a woman who has given birth to life does nothing else in her time on Earth, her life will have infinite meaning. And it is truly a precious meaning that she alone can own, knowing that this single moment of laboring for this new life has enlightened all her life’s moments to come with meaning, if she only realized.
Some do not realize, make real, this brilliant star of meaning that anchors and guides all mothers. Some do realize this awareness that they have participated in the greatest miracle of all – shepherding, laboring, bringing life into this world of humankind.
Men have been told that meaning only exists in power and wealth. And yet, just as women can participate in the labor of life, men can too, should they father a child, should they labor to support that child, should they labor to love that child and its mother, should they vow to do so for their lifetimes in the sacrament of marriage and family.
Such men and such women form the true labor union, the family. Such men and such women need never fear their lives have no purpose or meaning, for if they have indeed formed such a union of labor, formed such a family, they have participated in the grandest of Heaven’s labors – the creation of life, the sustenance of life, the miracle of life.
Men and women who do not own the blessed choice to father and mother, to labor for love of new life, even so, are charged with supporting those who have formed these labor unions we call families. Aunts and uncles, friends and neighbors, can all participate in the life of the baby growing in the womb by comforting and encouraging the mother and father in this great labor of love. Godparents come to mind, but any role or title will suffice, will meet the standard for this great answer to the meaning of life.
To comfort and strengthen these parents, these shepherds of life, is to find one’s miraculous meaning, the purpose of existence. From this point of understanding, this still point in the universe of pondering, wondering, and philosophizing, every man and every woman may step into their remaining time knowing all one needs to know to answer life’s great questions. Such men and women inhabit God’s miraculous palace of reality and sanity, and there is nothing more gloriously meaningful than that.
And so, while we celebrate the worker, a celebration that is often associated with labor unions, let us not forget the laboring unions nearby, the families, the creating of the future with the creation of new life. Let us labor to not forget what is right and true and beautiful, and right in front of us. Let us celebrate our daily labors of love, our support and comfort for life itself, that union of male and female to create the unborn child in the womb.
Let us celebrate these great labors of love; let us realize God’s true meaning in such unions and such family re-unions.