Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life – Thomas Aquinas

Here St. Thomas Aquinas comments on John 14:6 where Jesus says “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me.”

Christ himself is the way, and therefore he says: I am the way. This certainly is eminently right for through him we have access to the Father.

Since this way is not separate from its end, but joined to it, he adds the truth and the life; thus he is himself at once both the way and the goal. In his human nature he is the way, and in his divine nature he is the goal. Therefore, speaking as man he says: I am the way; and speaking as God he adds: the truth and the life. These two words are an apt description of this goal.

For this goal is the object of human desire, and a man desires two things above all. In the first place he wants to know the truth, which is peculiar to him; and secondly he wants to continue to exist, which is common to all things. Christ is the way by which we come to know truth, though he is also that truth: Lead me, O Lord, in truth, and I shall enter into your way. Christ is also the way to come to life, though he is also that life: You have made known the ways of life.

Therefore, he designated the end of this way by truth and life, about which we have spoken above with reference to Christ. First, he himself is life, for life was in him; then, he is truth, because he was the light of men, and light is truth.

If, then, you are looking for the way by which you should go, take Christ, because he himself is the way: This is the way; walk in it. And Augustine says: Make man your way and you shall arrive at God. It is better to limp along the way than stride along off the way. For a man who limps along the way, even if he only makes slow progress, comes to the end of the way; but one who is off the way, the more quickly he runs, the further away is he from his goal.

If you are looking for a goal, hold fast to Christ, because he himself is the truth, where we desire to be. My mouth shall reflect on the truth. If you are looking for a resting place, hold fast to Christ, because he himself is the life. Whoever finds me finds life, and receives salvation from the Lord.

Therefore hold fast to Christ if you wish to be safe. You will not be able to go astray, because he is the way. He who remains with him does not wander in trackless places; he is on the right way. Moreover he cannot be deceived, because he is the truth, and he teaches every truth. And he says: For this I was born and for this I have come, to bear witness to the truth. Nor can he be disturbed, because he is both life and the giver of life. For he says: I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly (Jn 10:10).

This excerpt from the Exposition on John’s Gospel by St. Thomas Aquinas (Cap. 14, lect. 2) is a commentary on John 14:6 where Jesus says “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me.” It is used in the Roman Office of Readings for Saturday of the 9th week in ordinary time with the accompanying biblical reading of Job 42:7-17.

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Thomas Aquinas, St.

In the middle of the thirteenth century, a noble family named Aquinas from Southern Italy had a plan for their son. Thomas had been born in 1225 (in the lifetime of St. Francis of Assisi) and had received his initial education from the Benedictines at the historic Abbey of Monte Cassino, founded by St. Benedict himself. His parents knew he was religiously inclined, so his father planned to pull a few strings and get Thomas appointed Abbot of Monte Cassino, a position with power and prestige befitting the son of the Count of Aquinas.

But before taking such a step, the Count sent him to the newly founded University of Naples to get some further education. While there, Thomas was inspired by the members of a new, unconventional religious order called the Dominicans or Order of Preachers. Over the protests of his parents, Thomas, joined this new group. The young friar grew rapidly in holiness and knowledge of the things of God. It helped, of course, that he had St. Albert the Great as one of his principal teachers. Ultimately, Thomas Aquinas was appointed professor of Sacred Theology at the University of Paris where he taught alongside a Franciscan professor named Bonaventure.

Though not sufficiently appreciated until the Council of Trent three hundred years later, Thomas Aquinas, who died in 1274, ultimately came to be recognized as a Doctor of the Church and as indeed one of the greatest Catholic teachers of all time. He wrote commentaries on various books of the bible as well as the multi-volume apologetics work “Summa Contra Gentiles.” Yet St. Thomas was first and foremost a man of prayer, a true disciple of Jesus and Jesus’ disciple Dominic. His study flowed from his prayer and his profound holiness made it possible for him to discern the wheat from the chaff in the intellectual currents of his day, and integrate that wheat into the established fare of the Catholic Tradition. His most notable achievement along these lines was to show how many of the ideas of the pagan Greek philosopher, Aristotle, could be utilized with great benefit in Catholic theology, an idea that was quite controversial in his day.

St. Thomas’ greatest theological work, the Summa Theologiae is, though unfinished, nevertheless a masterpiece of theology that covers all aspects of Catholic doctrine from the Trinity to Morality.

 

St. Thomas died in 1274 (the same year as his Franciscan Colleague, St. Bonaventure) while on his way to participate in the Ecumenical Council of Lyons. As early as 1277, his work was attacked by a number of Catholic theological faculties and remained under a cloud until the time of Council of Trent some 300 years later. Pope Leo XIII, in the late 19th century, recognized that the achievement of St. Thomas in the area of truly Christian philosophy and theology had to be emulated in the modern era if the Church was ever to meet the challenge posed by atheism and secularism.