While many of us struggle today to find meaning in life, Christianity proposes that everything we do can have real significance for ourselves and others, in this life and in eternity. How? Through what is called the universal or royal priesthood of all the baptized.
Let me explain.
At every Catholic Mass today, those present heard a reading of the first letter of St. Peter, in which he writes the following: “let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).
While most people think of priests as the guys in white collars, the Catholic Church -- like many other Christian traditions -- also teaches that every baptized person is a priest, as well as a prophet and a king (or queen). Why? Because by our baptism we are joined to Jesus Christ, who is the priest, prophet and king, and we share in His status as such.
“That’s all well and good, Chris,” you might be thinking, “but what does that have to do with finding meaning in my life?”
This is what is has to do with meaning: because we as baptized are priests in Jesus Christ, we are able to offer everything we do -- literally, everything (apart from our sins, of course) -- to the Father as a spiritual offering, a spiritual sacrifice, and in doing so, we join our offering to Jesus’ ultimate offering on the Cross. In this offering-with-Jesus’-offering, my seemingly little and insignificant gift is invested and imbued with incredible -- even eternal -- significance: because it is joined to Jesus’ offering by which He saved all of us and indeed all of creation, so too does my offering -- by its participation in Jesus’ offering -- become salvific or saving.
In decades past this teaching was summarized in the simple saying, “offer it up,” which was usually applied to suffering, whether little annoyances or great physical or emotional pain. But the same saying can be applied to any and every act we make, and in so doing, we fill that act with great meaning and purpose.
Here’s how the Catholic Church formally teaches this reality, in paragraph 901 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
“For all their works, prayers, and apostolic undertakings, family and married life, daily work, relaxation of mind and body, if they are accomplished in the Spirit - indeed even the hardships of life if patiently born - all these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Our daily work, the joys and struggles of family and married life, even the things I do to relax my mind and body… all of these things can be offered to the Father through Jesus, and in so doing become salvific, redemptive… saving.
I continue to be struck by this reality, and I continue to strive to live it out in my daily life, and in so doing, to give everything I do meaning & purpose.
What about you? Is this a new insight, or something you’ve been aware of? If the latter, how have you been able to live this out in your own life?