In John 1:1, we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Greek word ‘logos’, here translated as ‘Word,’ has two meanings. The other meaning of ‘logos’ is ‘meaning.’ So, if we use the other translation of ‘logos,’ we could translate the passage like this: “In the beginning was meaning, and meaning was with God, and meaning was God.” Our constant search for meaning is a search for God. Only in God can we find our meaning, because when we find meaning, we will find God.
Now, let’s take it a step further. Tradition teaches, and all Christians agree on this, that ‘logos’ is referring here to the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ. Therefore this meaning we search for is Jesus Christ. When we find Christ and live in him, our lives gain meaning. Only when we have meaning in our lives are we truly happy.
In order to find Christ, and therefore our meaning, we need to look at where Christ’s meaning is found. Christ was a man who lived a meaningful life in everything he did. In the 3rd Chapter of John, Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night and says to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs you do, unless God is with him.” There was something about how Christ lived that drew Nicodemus to him. The “signs” that Christ did showed his meaning. So the question becomes: What are these signs that Nicodemus saw?
The two previous stories to this part of the Gospel are the Wedding at Cana, and the driving out of the moneychangers from the Temple. In these two stories, we can find the heart of the meaning of Christ, which ultimately is our meaning. If we look at these two stories, we see that Christ is living not for himself, but for others. He doesn’t necessarily want to change the water into wine, but he does it, not so that he can draw attention to himself, but so that the wedding guests might have wine and so they might have increased joy. He doesn’t drive the moneychangers out of the temple so that he could be seen as a great leader, but to keep the house of God holy, and not allow it to be defiled by everyday, profane things.
In further reflecting on all these things, I came up with three ‘aspects of meaning’ that we find in the life of Christ. These are things we look to Christ as our model in. You can find these three aspects illustrated throughout the Gospels and throughout the whole of Scripture. These aspects are 1) Humility, 2) Relationships and 3) Total gift of self in love. We’ll look at these three aspects in the life of Christ.
First, let’s look at the aspect of humility. What is humility? Humility in the Christian sense means that you know who you are, and you don’t think too highly of yourself, sometimes even lowering yourself below where you are in order to build up others. This sure sounds like Christ. Even in the fact that Christ came as a man is an act of humility. In St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we hear that “he humbled himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness.”
Furthermore, after many of Christ’s miracles, he tells the recipient of the miracle to not tell anyone about him. Telling about him would bring glory to himself, instead of to God the Father. Humans have this crazy way of forgetting that the power of miraculous events comes not from the person who performs them, but from God the Father. We see this in the lives of saints who perform miracles. People try to put them up on a pedestal, and the saints constantly re-direct the glory away from themsleves to the true source of power, God Almighty.
Relationships are paramount in the life of Christ. He has relationships with his Mother, His apostles, his disciples, Mary and Martha, Lazarus, Mary Magdalene, and many others. Everything that Jesus does is oriented toward authentic relationships with other people, and with God his Father. We often see him taking time alone to pray. He needs to foster His relationship with His Father. Whenever Jesus performed a miracle for someone, he always accompanied the miracle with a forgiveness of sins. He took the opportunity of healing their physical ailments to also restore their relationship with God the Father.
His relationships with other people are also very important. He spends much time being with people at their houses, eating dinner, mourning the loss of life and other things. As he hung on the cross, he gave John and Mary to each other as Mother and son, in order to establish a relationship between the Church (His beloved disciple) and his Mother. When he is offering his High Priestly Prayer to the Father in John’s Gospel, he prays “that they may be one.” He wants all of his people to be of one heart and mind, truly in holy relationship with our fellow men.
Finally, we look at the total gift of self in love. It is fairly obvious that Christ gave himself totally in love to his beloved people. In dying on the cross, he holds nothing back, using even his life to bring us to redemption. But even before this, we can see Christ giving totally of himself. In his miracles, he holds nothing back. He does not just change a little bit of water into wine. He changes six stone water jars of water (120-180 gallons) into wine. When he heals peoples physical ailments, he also forgives their sins. At the Last supper, he holds nothing back in giving his own Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity to us for our food. Christ is the Bread of Life, and he gives himself to us so that he may become part of us, both spiritually and physically, and thus strengthen us for our journey to Him in heaven.
Now that we have seen meaning in the life of Jesus, we see what we need in our lives to find this meaning. We are all called to holiness; to live like Christ and find our meaning in him. How much of our lives are rooted in humility, relationships, and a total gift of ourselves in love? These aspects are intimately connected to our holiness, and interestingly enough, the three main types of sin are opposed to these three aspects.
Pride, Power, and Pleasure. These three things are the root of all sin. Name a sin, and I will guarantee you it has its root in one of these three things. The seven capital sins have their root in these: Pride and envy in pride; sloth, lust, and gluttony in pleasure; greed and anger in power. Pride, Power and Pleasure are opposed to humility, relationships, and total gift of self in love.
The opposition between pride and humility is pretty obvious. When someone is proud they think themselves to be better than everyone else, and seeks to show their importance to other people. When someone is humble, they think of themselves in the right way, not nearly as important as other things, like God. Humble people also do not seek attention. In fact, they often try to draw attention away from themselves.
Power is opposed to good, healthy relationships. When someone seeks control over another person, the relationship becomes distorted, and the person controlled loses their human dignity and freedom. Someone with good relationships always seeks the good of other people, and never presumes to control people or to do anything that might make oneself “higher” than anyone else.
Pleasure opposes a total gift of oneself. When one seeks only to do what makes them feel good, they do not care about giving of themselves. They do what is best for them, without being concerned for the needs and feelings of others. If Christ had given into his bodily “needs,” the Gospel would have ended at the Garden of Gethsemane, and our faith would be in vain.
This is the heart of the Christian Life. Our Relationship with the Lord, poured out in our relationships with others, in humility and a total gift of ourself in love. When this is lived out to its fullest, saints are made.