Friday, January 28, 2011

on St. Thomas Aquinas

The Church owes a lot to this great saint and theologian we commemorate today, St. Thomas Aquinas. In the past, whenever there was a controversy within or outside the Church, questioning a teaching or a theology of the Church, such as the Protestant Reformation, the response of the Church was to always go back to the theology and the writings of Thomas Aquinas. Such was the soundness and the clarity of his work, that the Church during controversial moments in its life, could go to Aquinas and rely on the rich work he left us as a defense and support for the faith. If you go to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and count the number of times Thomas Aquinas is mentioned, he is mentioned at least 60 times.

One of the things he taught is how God is present. In his masterpiece, the Summa Theologica, he wrote that God is present in three distinct ways. First, God is present and exists in Himself, He is the beginning and end of all things, so all creatures come from and depend upon Him. Secondly, God is present through grace in the life and activity of Christians, of the saints. Finally, God is present in a very special way in the person of his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Sacraments which come from Christ’s work of redemption: the sacraments of which this, the Eucharist, is the source and summit of our prayer life.

And he taught that faith and intelligence or reason, such as that found in science, are not contradictory. Faith and reason are not at odds with each other, but rather both reflect and serve the truth, He who is the Truth and the Way and the Life.

But what distinguishes Thomas, in addition to his work, is his humility. This great mind knew that Wisdom, spoken of in the first reading, can only be attained by a heart and mind that is docile to God’s word and prompting in one’s heart, a heart and mind that is humble to God’s word, to what God want us to do and be in our life….exalting Him, not ourselves. Without that humility, there can be no wisdom. In fact humility is the door to wisdom. Humility is the door to Christ, for it is Christ who is the fullest revelation of the Wisdom of God.

In June of last year, Pope Benedict in weekly General Audiences spoke about St. Thomas. I would like to share some of his words here because talks about Thomas’ humility which lead him to seek he who is Wisdom itself:

“The last months of Thomas' earthly life remain surrounded by a particular, I would say, mysterious atmosphere. In December of the year 1273, he summoned his friend and secretary Reginald to inform him of his decision to discontinue all work because Thomas had realized, during the celebration of Mass that everything he had written until then "was worthless". This is a mysterious episode that helps us to understand not only Thomas' personal humility, but also the fact that, however lofty and pure it may be, all we manage to think and say about the faith is infinitely exceeded by God's greatness and beauty which will be fully revealed to us in Heaven….

The life and teaching of St Thomas Aquinas could be summed up in this story about him. While the Saint was praying before the Crucifix in the early morning in the chapel, the sacristan, overheard a conversation. Thomas was anxiously asking whether what he had written on the mysteries of the Christian faith was correct. And the Crucified One answered him: "You have spoken well of me, Thomas. What is your reward to be?". And the answer Thomas gave him was what we too, friends and disciples of Jesus, should always want to tell him: "Nothing but Yourself, Lord!"

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