A kiss is just a kiss?

“But Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, would you betray the Son of man with a kiss?’”  – Lk. 22:48


Considering the current “hook up” culture, it is reasonable to ask: “Does a kiss mean anything anymore?”

And yet, this is simply one example of a more fundamental divide. Do the world and the things in it have an objective meaning and purpose, or is all meaning subjectively assigned and thus relative? In other words, does anything mean… well… anything?

I have come to believe, however, that these questions ultimately lead to the Ultimate, to the question of all questions: Is there a Creator or not? For if there is a Creator who is an Intelligence, then the world is intelligible. Then things are created for a purpose, for an end, and have intrinsic meaning – for if all rational beings act for an end, then certainly the One who is Reason (Logos) and Being itself does. If there is no God, then there is no meaning. No real meaning anyway; nothing upon which you can hang your hat (or bet your life).

In the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas, the divine ideas are “exemplar forms existing in the divine mind” and “what is real is called true in so far as it realizes that toward which it is ordained in the mind of God” (Disputed Questions on Truth, I, 2). Thomas considers final cause as the “first” among causes because things are only moved by an agent and “the agent only moves by intending an end”(Summa Theologiae, I-II, 1, 2). He uses the term “nature” to refer to “the essence of a thing as directed to its specific operation”  (On Being and Essence, I, 4). In summary, every created thing has a “nature” and a characteristic activity that is directed towards some end or purpose. In fact, a thing’s nature is revealed in and through this characteristic activity and end, for “action” follows “being” (operare sequitor esse).

All of this to say what? If there is a God, then the world and the things in it have meaning. And if the world and the things in it have meaning, then a kiss has meaning apart from whatever we mean by it. St. John Paul II said that “If the human being… gives to his behavior a meaning in conformity with the fundamental truth of the language of the body, then he too ‘is in the truth.’ In the opposite case, he commits lies and falsifies the language of the body” (Theology of the Body, 106:3). It seems that this is what Jesus was getting at with his rhetorical question. Judas was not only betraying the Son of man, but the meaning of a kiss.

It may well be that all the confusion of our culture regarding the meaning of sex and sexuality or the definition of marriage comes down to a question of meaning. And that ultimately comes down to the question of God.


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