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On Purpose

by Msgr. Robert L. Stern

Several years ago I watched a two-hour science fiction television drama called The Questor Tapes. It was a pilot program for a series that never developed. In the story, a famous scientist had disappeared, but left behind instructions for the manufacture of an android and programming tapes to activate it. His students tried to create the android according to his plans. Ultimately they were successful, but the last programming tape was damaged.

As a result the android, who called himself Questor, functioned as a human being, but did not know his purpose. The rest of the story concerned Questor’s search to discover the design of his creator.

The story can be taken as a kind of parable. Each of us is a work of creation by God. The most challenging and important task of our lives is to discover his design for us, our purpose.

In our modern, technologically advanced society, there is hardly anyone who has not been confronted with the challenges of programming, be it a television receiver, VCR, digital watch, or household appliance, not to mention a computer.

In other words, to make a device work, you have to figure out how to operate it according to the manufacturer’s design.

It’s curious. We take for granted that we can type without learning a keyboard, we can drive without learning to manipulate a car’s controls and learning the rules of the road, we can even set our alarm clocks without checking the instructions – but when it comes to living our lives, anything goes.

In the Old Testament, the wisdom books give us a vast accumulation of practical experience about how to live well. A wise man or woman was one who had discovered the great design built into our very natures and learned to live accordingly. Wisdom itself was considered a great gift of God.

Modern science looks for order and design, be it in DNA or in galaxies, but curiously the notion of seeking to discover design and purpose in our lives is considered outdated and outmoded.

Besides the personal challenge to discover the Creator’s purpose for our individual lives, we also are confronted with discovering his plan for the entire human race.

Does it make sense for any country or national group to seek whatever it wants for itself? Should any supranational corporation or organization choose its own goals arbitrarily? What’s the purpose of all of human society?

St. Paul gives us his answer. In the letter to the Ephesians (1:8b-10), he writes:

In all wisdom and insight, [God the Father] has made known to us the mystery of his will in accord with his favor that he set forth in [Jesus Christ] as a plan for the fullness of times, to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth.

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Msgr. Robert L. Stern, Secretary General of CNEWA



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