The Way, The Truth, and The Life

A Blueprint for Theology and Sanity

The Way, the Truth, and the Life by Heinrich Hofmann

God’s divine revelation of himself to humanity is brought to its completion, and fullest realization, in the divine person of Jesus Christ, who, throughout sacred scripture and sacred tradition, reveals himself as “one in being [or essence] with the Father.” In Scripture, Christ reveals that “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9); and further, “I and the Father are one” (Jn 10:30). Moreover, the constant teaching of the Church, beginning with the Council of Nicaea in AD 325, bears out the truth that there can be no question regarding Christ’s essential and/or consubstantial union with God the Father. Neither can there be any question that the perfect reciprocity of love that God the Father and God the Son have for each other is so metaphysically and ontologically real that it becomes personified in the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit, or the Paraclete. Thus, the dogma of the Holy Trinity as three distinct and Divine Persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—who, never the less, possess one divine nature/essence, is the single most important truth of our one, holy, Catholic and apostolic faith.

The second most important dogma of our faith, and the one that concerns what follows in this brief essay, has to do with the divinity of Jesus Christ. Scripture bears abundant evidence of Christ’s claim to divinity, yet his most significant and revealing self-revelation can be found in John’s Gospel, Chapter 14, verse 6, where he states, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.” Exegetes have rightly pointed out that this self-identification by Christ is meant to underscore the reality of his wholly unique role as the Savior of humanity. Yet, contained within this most powerful revelation is an entire treasure-trove of Christian theology. It is this author’s intention to illuminate some of the myriad truths and theological relationships that exist just below the surface of Christ’s three-fold self-revelation as the “Way, the Truth and the Life.”

As we begin this exploration, let us bear in mind that Christ, the eternally begotten Son of the Father, and the Second Person of the Trinity, could not have chosen his words more carefully; neither could the Gospel writers have written anything other than what God himself specifically desired. For, as we read in Dei Verbum, the authors of Scripture “consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wanted” (Dei Verbum, 11).

That said, let us begin with what is probably the most important reality conveyed in John 14:9: In revealing himself as the “Way, the Truth, and the Life,” Christ is clearly pointing out the reality that he, and he alone, is at the very center of religion itself. Religion can be defined as the virtue whereby human persons render unto God that which is his due—namely, worship. Thus, the virtue of religion, categorically speaking, falls under the broader virtue of justice, whereby each and every individual is the recipient of that which is their due.

Further, every great world religion is comprised of the same three fundamental characteristics: creed (the tenets of belief/faith), code (the tenets of morality), and cult (the rituals involved in offering worship to God). In John 14:9, Christ unequivocally reveals himself to be (1) the “creed,” the object of our belief; or, simply, the Truth; (2) the “code,” the exemplar of how we ought to live; or, simply, the Way; and finally, the “cult,” the centerpiece and supreme act of worship to the Father via his once-for-all perfect sacrifice, renewed in an unbloody fashion at each Eucharistic Liturgy, during which our offering of bread and wine is mystically transubstantiated into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ, and by which we are fed; or, simply, the Life.

This first insight is tremendous: Christ reveals that the object of every religious and/or philosophical pursuit is not primarily an abstract set of truths, nor principally a code of morality, nor is it essentially a ritual, nor a series of rituals; instead, the object, purpose, and goal of religion itself is a Person, and that Person is Christ Jesus, who is both completely human and completely divine. This is the game-changer of the Christian faith: it is the only belief system whose founder is, himself, the Creed, the Code, and the Cult!

This leads us to the next logical step in our understanding of this critical passage of Sacred Scripture. While a “creed” presupposes one’s ability to know, and a “code” presupposes freedom of will, “cultic” worship, or the ability/duty to offer worship, requires the ability to raise one’s mind and heart to God. Thus, just as the Truth, the Way, and the Life correspond to creed, code, and cult, respectively, so too do these latter—creed, code, and cult—correspond to the three powers of the human soul: intellect, will, and heart, respectively!

There is more. God has never created, nor shall he ever create, anything whatever without a grand purpose and design. The great St. Thomas Aquinas, taking his cue from Aristotle, espoused and promoted the notion of intrinsic teleology—the concept that all things are goal- oriented and/or purpose driven. Thus, in order to truly comprehend a thing—from an authentically metaphysical and ontological vantage point—one must grasp what Thomistic philosophy refers to as the “final cause” of a thing: that for which it was created.

Thus, we may ask, “for what purpose has the soul—and its powers—been created?” It should not be too difficult to see that the object of the intellect is knowledge. Thus, while possession of an intellect makes knowledge of myriad entities a reality, the penultimate purpose for the bestowal of this gift is that human persons might come to know God. Moreover, in getting to know God, we perceive him to be our greatest good and, as such, there is cultivated within each of us an ever-increasing desire to willfully possess him in love. Love, then, is the object of the will. Not unlike knowledge, we may love many things; yet, each of our many loves is really a longing and expression for our greatest love—God himself, the greatest good.

Our Lord additionally created the human heart that we might hope for salvation through the forgiveness of our sins and, ultimately, an eternity of beatitude with him. These three goals of the human heart and soul—knowledge, love, and hope—not surprisingly, correspond to the three theological, infused virtues of faith, hope, and charity.

It is precisely through, with, and in the exercise of these three theological, supernatural, and infused virtues that the living out of our Baptismal vocation—as “sons in the Son” and “adopted children of the Father”—becomes a distinct possibility. In truth, there can be no hope of living out the exalted vocation to which we have been called without the assistance of these virtues. Indeed, we refer to them as “supernatural” precisely because they simply cannot be acquired via purely natural means. These three virtues, unlike the Cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance, cannot be acquired through sheer brute force of will or habit. They are, in truth, gifts from God that possess a distinctly other-worldly nature or essence. Let us, then, take a moment to explore, in greater depth, the hallmark characteristics of these three virtues that act as three hinges on the door through which we pass to God, the goal of our entire earthly existence.

The first, faith, is both a human act and a free-gift of God. It is a free-gift of God insofar as God initiates the entire process of faith. Upon hearing the Word of God, if we are truly open and genuinely honest with ourselves, we cannot help but to be convicted of the absolute truth of what is being stated either about Christ, or by Christ. This conviction, or “hearing” of the Truth is none other than the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit of God, at work in our will, pushing and prodding the intellect to give full, unconditional assent, or consent, to the divinely revealed truths. Faith is a human act insofar as we choose to cooperate with the Spirit, who will invariably move us to give our assent and consent or, in other words, the “obedience of faith” to God’s divine revelation, which flows from the two-fold source of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

The next theological virtue to be addressed is that of hope. It is hope that encourages us in times of difficulty, when it may seem that the world is against us, and our last and only hope is God himself. It is through hope that we hold fast to Christ’s promise of salvation—the forgiveness of our sins—not through any merit of our own, but through the salvific work of Christ, who was crucified in our place. “Ours were the sufferings he bore; ours the sorrows he carried.” “On him was placed the punishment of us all, and by his stripes we are healed.” For, it is through, with, and in Christ Jesus that we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins. It is precisely this hope which lifts our gaze heavenward, in the expectation of finally receiving our hearts deepest longing: perfect happiness with God for all eternity.

Finally, let us explore the significance of the greatest of the three theological virtues, namely love, or charity. We read the following in St. Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 22: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40 NIV). It is interesting to point out that of the ten Commandments, the first three—three being a symbolic and sacred number representing the essence of God and his divinity—deal explicitly with man’s love of God, while the remaining seven—another sacred and symbolic biblical number representing the creation of man—pertain to the moral actions of men amongst themselves. Further, Christ makes the following astounding proclamation of love for humanity, in general, and to each individual person, in particular, when he states: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.…” (Jn 15:9). His love for each of us is fully commensurate with his Father’s perfect love for him, yet this tremendous gift demands that we, too, imitate the selfless love of Christ by keeping his commands. It simply cannot be any other way, for the commandments of God, as stated above, are entirely rooted in love for God and neighbor.

St. Paul paints a vivid picture of just what this love ought to look like. In the poetic prose of one of the best-known passages of the Pauline Epistles, the apostle explains that:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. But when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now, we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:4-13).

Having explored the theological implications of Christ’s identity as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, we are in a better position to understand what can happen, and what, in this author’s estimation, has indeed happened, as a consequence of the cultural denial of this three-fold self-identification of Christ. Before we begin, however, I should like, at this juncture, to propose a second thesis. It is my contention that much of the cultural chaos that we are witnessing today seems to be the direct result of a fundamental paradigm shift, whereby key dimensions of reality—specifically, the ethical, the metaphysical, and the existential instead of being viewed from an inherently “objective” vantage point, are instead being viewed, by many, from a purely “subjective” perspective, which replaces objective reality with purely subjective mental constructs. Specifically, I refer here to a systematic denial of the objectivity of Christ the Way, Christ the Truth, and Christ the Life.

To deny the objectivity of Christ the Way is to end up in a state of moral relativism, whereby man becomes the measure of morality, and the ultimate arbiter of ethical utterances. The dangers of moral and ethical relativism are well known, and have been clearly articulated by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who famously spoke out against what he referred to as the “dictatorship of moral relativism.” In place of absolute, universal, and objective moral norms—which may well be ascertained via unaided human reason, via the famous long-standing Aristotelian/Thomistic tradition of Natural Law ethics—secular humanists would have us believe that no such absolute, universal, or objective moral norms exist. Instead, morality is said to be “relative” to particular cultures or individual subjects. Thus, each one allegedly has the “right” to decide, for him or herself, what is “right” and what is “wrong.” In short, what we are dealing with here may be summed up as a cultural sociopathy, a social psycopathy.

To deny the objectivity of Christ the Truth is to attempt to deny the objective nature of reality itself. This can be seen in the re-definition of the age-old institution of marriage by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case of Obergefell v.Hodges. It additionally explains how we’ve gone from the objective reality of two genders, male and female, to the subjective, relative “pseudo-reality” of 58 genders now being proposed by Facebook. Just as our culture, in succumbing to the sin of pride, came to believe that human persons possessed the authority and the so-called “right” to determine what was/is morally praiseworthy, as opposed to what was/is morally blameworthy, the same hubris-filled culture is now claiming the authority and ability to re-define reality itself. Hence, we are no longer “restricted” to the reality of two genders; we can concoct and contort ourselves into whatever bizarre genders and/or entities our imagination can conceive. The same may be said of, and applied to, the conjugal act. Now, instead of the sacred and sacramental embrace of husband and wife, whereby the two, in becoming one, become three—in imitation of the Most Holy Trinity—this highest expression of self-giving love has become so utterly debased and perverted that now, in many ways, it has become the antithesis of what it was/is meant to convey. Sexuality has not simply been reduced to a mere recreational sport; it has become the ultimate symbol of conquest, domination, subjugation, and self-centered pleasure-seeking. This radical denial of objective reality is not just exceedingly frightening, it is unprecedented, and entirely unsustainable. What we are witnessing here is nothing short of a social and cultural break with reality—a collective psychosis. Humanity is literally disintegrating before our eyes.

Finally, to deny the objectivity of Christ, the Life, is to sever the branch from the vine, which is its life-source, and to expect the branch to go on living and producing fruit without the vital nutrients provided by the vine. In truth, it is an existential and spiritual suicide that could very well result in an actual self-annihilation of the human species, not to mention the second, and far worse, death of eternal separation of the soul from God.

Conclusion
Throughout the course of this essay, this author has illustrated the reality that a logical relationship exists among numerous theological concepts, and how Christ Himself, vis-à-vis His self-revelation as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, is, in fact, the capstone which holds each of these concepts together and in place. Moreover, an attempt has been made to show what has occurred in our “culture of death,” as a consequence of the denial of the objectivity of this most fundamental three-fold truth.

Indeed, hostility toward Christianity, in general, and Christians, in particular, has never been so widespread in these United States, a nation which used to pride itself on its civil liberties, such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, et cetera. It should be manifestly clear to every Christian, regardless of denomination, that there is, indeed, a diabolical attack being made on the Christian faith, in particular. Indeed, our politically correct society would not dare to tolerate any form of anti-Semitism or Islamaphobia. Yet, there exists an entirely separate standard that applies solely to Christians and Christianity; a standard that is biased against us, and that readily calls us bigots, and purveyors of hate-speech, whenever we attempt to explain our theological and philosophical positions, rooted, as they are, in the Natural Law. In fact, the liberally-biased, mainstream media not only tolerates anti-Christian sentiment it actively promotes it. As Christians, we are being singled out and discriminated against precisely because we live in an age that is permeated by moral decay, deception, and death. It should come as no surprise, as this decay, deception, and death stands in utter contrast to Christ the Way, Christ the Truth, and Christ the Life, respectively.

Jayson M. Brunelle, MEd, CAGS About Jayson M. Brunelle, MEd, CAGS

Jayson M. Brunelle, MEd, CAGS, holds a BA in philosophy and theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio; an MA in education in counseling psychology, a certificate of advanced graduate studies in clinical mental health counseling from Springfield College, Springfield, Massachusetts; and a certificate of completion from the pre-theology program at St. John’s Seminary, Brighton, Massachusetts. Brunelle has been published in the Homiletic and Pastoral Review and Lay Witness, and presented papers at the 8th International Congress on Constructivism and Psychotherapy in Bari, Italy. He is the author of the books: The Blessed Mother’s Plan to Save Humanity, Consecration to Jesus Christ through Mary and Joseph, and The Five Ways of Aquinas. He has guest-lectured at Springfield College, Western New England College, and Holyoke Community College, and worked as a chaplain at Suffolk County Prison.

Comments

  1. The alignment of faith hope and love with Truth, the Way and the Life and Creed Code and Cult is a bit too formulaic or neat, don’t you think?

  2. This is really good, Jayson, how you bring to a climax the reality that the wondrous beauty and ineffable mystery of Jesus as Way, Truth, and Life now stands attacked on all fronts by an apostate culture that defines its own Way independent of the true and objective Way of Jesus, how the negation of truth gives way to a diabolical chaos of relativism and how the life of grace is severed, paving the way for the collapse of civilization.

    Sadly, as you quite likely already know, this terrible spiritual condition of USA is present in most of former Christendom, and not just here.

    But you know, too, that Our Lady will conquer for a great but temporary period of spiritual love and peace if the majority of fully approved Revelations are true, if even it requires a beginning of collapse of civs through chastisement..

    And so we can have hope the objective Way, Truth and Life will be recognized one final time in history yet, before the ultimate apostasy of the end.

    Thank you for your wonderful article, Jayson. God bless you.