The Meaning of Life According to the Claims of Saint Thomas Aquinas

Categories: Life

“What is the meaning of life?” This is a question so ingrained in mankind’s rhetoric that it seems like a natural part of its existence. As it turns out, according to Saint Thomas Aquinas, it is. Chapter seventeen of The Human Being by Hans Urs von Balthasar deals with this very question in terms of: When does the human being become complete? And at what point does man satisfy his inner void? It goes on to express that we search to fill this emptiness by means of riches, fame, sensual pleasure, love, whatever it may be.

Despite all this searching, though, that internal vacancy never seems to be satisfied. Saint Thomas Aquinas says that is because we are seeking this fulfillment through earthly gains—temporary gains—but we as human beings need that which is divine, that which is eternal. Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us that the only thing that can fill the “longing gaze” is God, who is Jesus Christ (von Balthasar).

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The natural world has furnished humanity, giving it all of its necessary resources and equipment, enabling it to fulfill its immediate aims on earth (von Balthasar). However, given that reality, Saint Thomas Aquinas pushes us even further to consider the question of this ultimate freedom—this fulfillment, as it is called. When we release our minds to consider the questions of “what is life?” “what is its meaning?” the laws of nature are suspended, and Saint Thomas Aquinas, therefore, says that another principle must take precedence the phenomenon of time and space.

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God has allotted us periods and boundaries of our habitation and therein instilled in us a search for the absolute. Thus, when we attempt to fill the lingering void through the earth’s bounty of wealth, pleasure, fame, etcetera, we cannot and will not find success. “…. They should seek God in the hope that they might feel after him and find him,” (Acts, 17:27).

In any human relationship, whether romantic or friendly, it takes both parties to willingly come and seek the other. Love cannot be forcefully extracted from whomever. Ergo, whomever we choose, must likewise freely choose us, and somehow meet us. The evidence supporting the claim that the emptiness within us can only be actualized by Jesus Christ is found through the creation of man himself and the holy incarnation. Inasmuch as giving man the capacity to love, God also gave him the capacity to accept or deny said love by implanting in him free will. God did not want us to be robots, mindlessly following every command He laid out. Instead, man should choose for himself whether to love, thereby rendering that love as true. What is love if we are forced to do it? Is it still love? By us freely choosing to love God through Jesus Christ and accepting Him fully in our hearts, as He did for us, only then may we be full. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” (Psalm 23:28). There is much evidence that points to the conclusion that the answer to filling the inner void is through Jesus Christ. Firstly, it can be clearly observed that when we attempt to find the meaning of life, whether it is by filling our passports with as many stamps as we can, or climbing the corporate ladder up to its highest point, we see time and time again that it does not satisfy us. It is due to the reality that, after all, all those things are merely temporary.

Whether we are consciously aware, that is why. We have been created by the divine from earthly material, so why would it be so absurd to believe that our fulfillment can only be reached via the Divine who came to earth in the flesh? The second piece of evidence is in direct affiliation with love. As it is said, love for one another must be freely given and freely accepted, hence the God-given gift of free will. Therefore, when God created man, he bestowed upon him the desire to seek life’s meaning, the void as to which it is referred. It can then be concluded that God loved His children and wanted them to love and come seek Him, but additionally wanted that love to be in truth. That is why we are born with this mysterious void and must go through life finding how to fill it, though we are given hints that such fulfillment is accomplished solely through Christ but are not forced to believe it. We may choose whatever path to fill the inner vacancy, but only a number of us will find the true fulfillment. “We love because He first loved us,” (John 4:19). We did not ask for this love, rather, Our Lord God and Savior, Jesus Christ, freely loved us and sought us. “For God so loved the world, He gave his only begotten son, so that whoever believes in Him may have not perish but have eternal life,” (John 3:16). Christ did indeed freely choose and meet us, and in so doing, manifested Himself in being both divine and human—the explicit recipe of inner human fulfillment. “Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect,” (Matthew 5:48), “…that ye may stand perfect and complete in all of the will of God,” (Colossians 4:12).

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The Meaning of Life According to the Claims of Saint Thomas Aquinas. (2022, Sep 07). Retrieved from

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