What is the Meaning of Life?

By Fr. Ankido Sipo


The Gospel reading from the Gospel of John this Sunday answers the question, even if in a
difficult way to understand, that every child asks himself almost immediately upon developing
enough to wonder about the world. We have all asked ourselves, young and old: what is the
meaning of life? Jesus answers the question simply: “This is eternal life, that they know you, the
only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Here, Jesus is not showing
how to get to eternal life but is showing what eternal life is; he is defining it, not giving
instructions. Eternal life is not merely life that goes on forever – who among us would want this
life, with all its labors and pains, joys and sorrows, to go on forever? Every one of us yearns for
that life in which we will have the joy that no one will take away from us (John 16:22). Eternal
life is true life, the true meaning of life. We have asked ourselves since childhood: What is the
meaning of life? To know God and to know Jesus Christ.

In Scripture, to know someone is not merely to have knowledge about that person. I know of
C.S. Lewis, but I do not know him personally, since he died long before I was born, and I likely
would not have met him anyways since he lived in England. I know his writings and thought
patterns, I even know a lot about his life, but I do not know the man. Even if I did know him,
and let’s even go as far as saying, even if I had a strong friendship with him, this friendship likely
would have given me much joy in life, but every one of us still wants more. Friendship (whether
with friends, family, spouses, etc.) is among the greatest gifts God gives us in this world (if not
the greatest), and yet we long for more, something that lasts beyond the grave. Love desires
eternity; joy never wants to end. But since every one of us are fallen and sinful, since every one
of us will meet our finality, none of us are not the ultimate meaning of life for anyone else. This
is not to devalue relationships in this life; our relationships here are, and should be, our great
source of real joy, but they are also meant to point beyond themselves to a joy, to a
relationship, that does fulfill the itch of the human heart for an endless joy.

This is why Jesus chooses this definition of eternal life: to know God and to know Jesus Christ;
that is, to be in relationship, to know intimately, to love and be loved by Jesus Christ. Attaching
ourselves to Him who is Life Itself (John 14:6) is our guarantee for eternal life, since He has
conquered even death. The meaning of life is veiled behind the many complexities of this life,
but God has removed the veil, and all meaning is found in Him.