Saturday, January 28, 2017
St. Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274)
(Hebrews 11:1-2,8-19; Mark 4:35-41)
Today we are already remotely thinking about the Gospel of tomorrow, about the Beatitudes. According to the beatitudes, they are all characterized by two parts of present and future; yet and not yet. Blessed is of now and the reward is future but this future stretches to now.
Thus, today’s first reading is telling us that this future reward will only be possible by faith in what we hope for. It is the faith that made Abraham move from known to unknown.
Through faith, Sarah moved from the class of senior barren to a class of a proud mother, thus, promoting Abraham from the class of shame to class of fame. We like Abraham we are pilgrims moving from this world we know to new Jerusalem we don’t know yet. We are to sacrifice what we already have because it’s by detaching that we will be able to attach again. We recall the Gospel of Thursday that, ‘for the man who has will be given more; from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away.’ Abraham detached himself from his only son but he was given back and many more descendants.
This is the same pilgrimage that we here in today’s gospel. Jesus was preaching at the shore of Galilee and in “the coming of evening, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let us cross over to the other side.’ Galilee was a place between the ridges of Naphtali and Zabulon. This made it to be said to be dark district, galal (to roll). The inhabitants were mostly the gentiles. By Jesus is asking us today to cross over to the other side, to cross over from this worldly to the next. We have to leave the gentiles’ things behind. The place they were going is a Country of Gadarenes (Gerasenes/Gerasenes). Gergesenes means those who come from pilgrimage or fight. The Christians are pilgrims and have a lot of fight to undertake to reach their Gergesenes, which is heaven.
It is at the evening of our life on earth and we need to start the journey. The journey is not easy. We have many challenges that have faced and we are still facing even today as the church.
These are persecutions, the scandals, the sicknesses, natural calamities, the hunger and their unfriendly ‘sisters’. But it is by trusting in Jesus whom to us at time might seem asleep but he is not, his presence is enough to rebuke these waves that are tossing us off-course. Let us not leave Jesus behind because alone we cannot make it. Though we cannot see Him physically, it is with faith that we see Him and when we call upon Him, he will rebuke the waves and take us safely home.
St Thomas Aquinas, an Italian, also faced waves, actually from his own family who did not want him to join the Order of the Benedictines. They actually kidnapped him and kept him prisoner for over a year but he stayed put with Jesus that they were calmed and Thomas had his way at last. He joined Dominican. He studied in Paris and in Cologne under the great philosopher St Albert the Great. It was a time of great philosophical ferment. The writings of Aristotle, the greatest philosopher of the ancient world, had been newly rediscovered, and were becoming available to people in the West for the first time in a thousand years. Many feared that Aristotelianism was flatly contradictory to Christianity, and the teaching of Aristotle was banned in many universities at this time – the fact that Aristotle’s works were coming to the West from mostly Muslim sources did nothing to help matters.
Into this chaos Thomas brought simple, straightforward sense. Truth cannot contradict truth: if Aristotle (the great, infallible pagan philosopher) appears to contradict Christianity (which we know by faith to be true), then either Aristotle is wrong or the contradiction is in fact illusory. And so Thomas studied, and taught, and argued, and eventually the simple, common- sense philosophy that he worked out brought an end to the controversy. Out of his work came many writings on philosophy and theology, including the Summa Theologiae, a standard textbook for many centuries and still an irreplaceable resource today. Out of his depth of learning came, also, the dazzling poetry of the liturgy for Corpus Christi. And out of his sanctity came the day when, celebrating Mass, he had a vision that, he said, made all his writings seem like so much straw; and he wrote no more.
Let us pray for the Holy Spirit to inspire us, like St Thomas, to love God with our minds as well as our hearts; and if we come across a fact or a teaching, a wave that seems to us to contradict our faith, let us not reject it but investigate it: for the truth that it contains can never contradict the truth that is God. No wave is powerful than Jesus.
St Theresa of Lisieux, pray for us.