Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 AD)
Feast Day: January 28
The way to come to true life
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.
I shall be satisfied when your glory is seen
It is fitting that the end of all our desires, namely eternal life, coincides with the words at the end of the creed, “Life everlasting. Amen.”
The first point about eternal life is that man is united with God. For God himself is the reward and end of all our labors. I am your protector and your supreme reward. This union consists in seeing perfectly: At present we are looking at a confused reflection in a mirror, but then we shall see face to face.
Next it consists in perfect praise, according to the words of the prophet: Joy and happiness will be found in it, thanksgiving and words of praise.
It also consists in the complete satisfaction of desire, for there the blessed will be given more than they wanted or hoped for. The reason is that in this life no one can fulfill his longing, nor can any creature satisfy man’s desire. Only God satisfies, he infinitely exceeds all other pleasures. That is why man can rest in nothing but God. As Augustine says: You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our heart can find no rest until it rests in you.
Since in their heavenly home the saints will possess God completely, obviously their longing will be satisfied, and their glory will be even greater. That is why the Lord says: Enter in the joy of your Lord. Augustine adds: The fullness of joy will not enter into those who rejoice, but those who rejoice will enter into joy. I shall be satisfied when your glory is seen, and again: He who satisfies your desire with good things.
Whatever is delightful is there in superabundance. If delights are sought, there is supreme and most perfect delight. It is said of God, the supreme good: Boundless delights are in your right hand.
Again, eternal life consists of the joyous community of all the blessed, a community of supreme delight, since everyone will share all that is good with all the blessed. Everyone will love everyone else as himself, and therefore will rejoice in another’s good as in his own. So it follows that the happiness and joy of each grows in proportion to the joy of all.
The Cross exemplifies every virtue
Why did the Son of God have to suffer for us? There was a great need, and it can be considered in a twofold way: in the first place, as a remedy for sin, and secondly, as an example of how to act.
It is a remedy, for, in the face of all the evils which we incur on account of our sins, we have found relief through the passion of Christ. Yet, it is no less an example, for the passion of Christ completely suffices to fashion our lives. Whoever wishes to live perfectly should do nothing but disdain what Christ disdained on the cross and desire what he desired, for the cross exemplifies every virtue.
If you seek the example of love: Greater love than this no man has, than to lay down his life for his friends. Such a man was Christ on the cross. And if he gave his life for us, then it should not be difficult to bear whatever hardships arise for his sake.
If you seek patience, you will find no better example than the cross. Great patience occurs in two ways: either when one patiently suffers much, or when one suffers things which one is able to avoid, and yet does not avoid. Christ endured much on the cross, and did so patiently, because when he suffered, he did not threaten; he was led like a sheep to the slaughter and he did not open his mouth. Therefore, Christ’s patience on the cross was great. In patience let us run for the prize set before us, looking upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith who, for the joy set before him, bore his cross and despised the shame.
If you seek an example of humility, look upon the crucified one, for God wished to be judged by Pontius Pilate and to die.
If you seek an example of obedience, follow him who became obedient to the Father even unto death. For just as by the disobedience of one man, namely, Adam, many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one man, many were made righteous.
If you seek an example of despising earthly things, follow him who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Upon the cross he was stripped, mocked, spat upon, struck, crowned with thorns, and given only vinegar and gall to drink.
Do not be attached, therefore, to clothing and riches, because they divided my garments among themselves. Nor to honors, for he experienced harsh words and scourgings. Nor to greatness of rank, for weaving a crown of thorns they placed it on my head. Nor to anything delightful, for in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.