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Showing posts with label Theology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Theology. Show all posts

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Saint Thomas Aquinas, Patron Saint of Philosophy, Angelic Doctor of the Church

When I finally made it to the university, I went to a school named for this man, The University of Saint Thomas, in Saint Paul, Minnesota, named for Saint Thomas Aquinas; I studied philosophy there, as well as theology and the classics.

 

It was a grand place, it felt like a university, with its tall stately buildings made from massive blacks of light tan stone, Minnesota sandstone quarried from the river bluffs nearby. The moment I passed through the arches into the quad I felt like I had arrived.

 

My time at this school was reasonably well spent. Saint Thomas prepared me for advanced studies elsewhere, and I continued my theological work, though not as exhaustively as our Patron Saint, his Summa Theologica remains a unique achievement in the history of Western thought, more important for the mode of thinking he transmitted his ideas in than for the conclusions that he made.

 

Saint Thomas bridged the gap between the ancient philosophers: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle et al, and the proto-renaissance period of Western Europe, re-discovering the use of intellectual tools like such as formal logic and discursive reasoning, and re-employing them in a way that allowed Europeans to leave the Dark Ages, clearing the way for the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and the Age of Reason that followed.

 

Saint Thomas died on March 7th, 1274. In 1969 the Church moved the day we celebrate his feast to January 28th, we celebrate his sainthood today.

 

Saint Thomas was Italian by birth and a member of the Dominican order, a scholastic, and he was famous in his day. He died while making a pilgrimage on the Appian Way, death took him at the Cistercian abbey of Fossanova, and the monks there, fully cognizant of his fame, knowing that he would become a saint of great renown, they coveted the relics of his body.

 

They boiled his carcass down and polished his bones, preserving all of the water for distribution in the relic-trade, they refused for years to turn his body over to his Dominican brothers, parceling out his bones and the water bit by bit over time, keeping his skull until the very end.

 

The University of Saint Thomas has a vial of that water in its collection of sacred artifacts, a silly business, really, and beneath the dignity of the intellectual giant that Aquinas was known to be.

 

On his death bed it is reported that he gave an estimation of the value of his own contribution to the doctrine and dogma of the church, of which he said: everything is just straw.

 

There is a prayer that Thomas wrote carved into a column of the main entrance to the school grounds, the same arches that I first walked through my first day on campus, two stories below the offices of the Philosophy Department. I recited it aloud every day that I attended classes on the campus in Saint Paul.

 

It is a prayer that I carry with me still, as if it were written in my heart:

 

Grant, O Merciful God

That I may ardently desire,

Prudently examine,

Truthfully acknowledge,

And perfectly accomplish

What is pleasing to thee

For the praise and glory

Of thy name

 

In the year 2021 CE, seven hundred and forty-seven after the death of Saint Thomas, the world has become enmired in another kind of dark ages, which is odd and sadly ironic because the current tide of anti-rational, anti-intellectual sentiment that has griped the world has been seeded through the prevalence of digital media platforms that are in themselves a function of our mastery of light, as a means of communication.

 

We now find ourselves leaving in a cultural milieu that disdains the truth, scientia, science and knowledge, which undermines place of reason in public discourse.

 

In Western Europe the so-called dark ages are considered to have begun around the year 500 CE, with the reign of the emperor Justinian, roughly the same length of time seven hundred and fifty years after the golden age of the philosophers, and roughly seven hundred and fifty years before Saint Thomas wrote his Summa.

 

Let me be clear, I am not suggesting that there is anything inherently ominous in the pattern I have articulated, the numbers themselves are arbitrary and it would be unreasonable to suppose otherwise. However, we would be wise to acknowledge this, the descent of darkness has a cycle all of its own. We have fallen into this before and we are susceptible to falling into it again, once we have fallen, it could take centuries to emerge back into the light.

 



Sunday, November 8, 2020

A Homily - The Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

First Reading – Wisdom 6:12-16 ©

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 62(63):2-8 ©

Second Reading – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 ©

Gospel Acclamation – Matthew 24:42, 44

The Gospel According to Matthew 25:1 - 13 ©

 

(NJB)

 

 

The Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

 

 

Remember this!

 

God, the creator of the universe; God has nothing to do with the appointment of kings or the management of kingdoms.

 

Wise men and despots alike rise to the role of ruler, though it is more difficult for the wise man than the despot. Justice and mercy, kindness and grace, these qualities are always received as blessings to those in need of them, and the exhibition of them blesses those who administer them as well. However, the kind and the merciful are easily overrun by those whose thoughts are only for themselves.

 

A despot may rule for generations, founding dynasties that abuse the people whom they are charged to uplift and defend.

 

This is the way of the world, and this is the way that God made it, even though it is not the way God desires it to be.

 

God created the universe and our world within it, God brought forth human beings but not the character of human culture, God has left that in our hands, and God calls us to sanctify it.

 

Consider the words of the psalmist.

 

It is right to thank God; the creator of the universe for all the good things that come our way, but do not blame God for the hardships we suffer in this life, in these bodies.

 

The good and the bad come to us irrespective of who we are, what we do or have done or who we might become. There is no plan it. God is no respecter of persons, and God does not love anyone of God’s children more than God loves any other.

 

Praise God and give thanks for the good; do not dwell on the bad.

 

There is peace to be had in patience and contemplation, in meditation and prayer. Make your life a constant prayer for the grace which comes from God and brings peace to you spirit.

 

Let the peace of God within you bubble up like a fountain an overflow so that others may quench their thirst and be nourished by it

 

Be mindful of what the apostle says!

 

Jesus rose from death; this is the gospel, and it will be the same for those who have died in him.

 

The living have no advantage over the dead. Jesus will bring all of those who die in him, with him, to life everlasting.

 

Now remember the teaching of John!

 

All things and beings exist in the Word who is God, and not one thing exists without God.

 

Through God all things came to be and in God all things continue.

 

Be mindful!

 

The future history of the world has not been written.

 

Any suppositions about our future on earth are guesses. We can speak in terms of possibility and probability, but we cannot know anything about the days and nights to come.

 

There are thousands of ways in which the plans we have laid and the hopes which we cherish can come undone; lightening will strike, a tornado will blow, a meteor will fall, a volcano explode. A person in the fullness of their life may trip and fall, hit their head and die, leaving everything behind them.

 

The promises we have received from God are not of this world. God has promised to bring an end to suffering, injustice, hunger, illness. It is wise to believe in these promise, but not to expect them in this life.

 

Our belief in a loving God, our hope in the words of the prophets, our trust in the Gospel, these allow us to believe that this is true. But anyone who pretends to know for certain, they are over stating their case.

 

Consider the Gospel for today.

 

The parable is a rank betrayal of the way.

 

The writers and editors of Matthew’s gospel, did not understand the basic meaning of the most prevalent teaching that Jesus’ gave, “the last will be first and the first will be last.”

 

These imposters in the early church betrayed the teaching of Jesus providing justification for their miserly behavior and ambitions. Those who would withhold from others the gifts they had received from God under the mistaken notion that the gifts of heaven are distributed according to some standard other than the selfless love God has for all of God’s children, those people do harm to the promise of the Gospel and obscure the way. A person is not rewarded in because they are smart, people are not punished because they are foolish or unprepared.

 

The commandment that Jesus issued is simple: Love one another, as I have loved you.

 

To be a Christian means that you have made a commitment to love God with all your heart, and all your strength and all your mind. A Christian is meant to love their neighbor even as they love themselves. Jesus tells us that within these words the entire code of the law, and all of the teachings of the prophets are contained.

 

Jesus expressed his understanding of this law in the most beautiful synthesis: Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.

 

This parable in today’s Gospel betrays that teaching. The writers of Matthew’s Gospel put a lie in the mouth of Jesus, in doing so they did great damage to everyone who sought to follow in the way after them.

 

 

First Reading – Wisdom 6:12-16 ©

 

Wisdom is Found by Those Who Look for Her

 

Wisdom is bright, and does not grow dim.

 

By those who love her she is readily seen, and found by those who look for her.

 

Quick to anticipate those who desire her, she makes herself known to them.

 

Watch for her early and you will have no trouble; you will find her sitting at your gates.

 

Even to think about her is understanding fully grown; be on the alert for her and anxiety will quickly leave you.

 

She herself walks about looking for those who are worthy of her and graciously shows herself to them as they go, in every thought of theirs coming to meet them.

 

 

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 62(63):2-8 ©

 

For you my soul is thirsting, O God, my God.

 

O God, you are my God, for you I long;

  for you my soul is thirsting.

My body pines for you

  like a dry, weary land without water.

 

For you my soul is thirsting, O God, my God.

 

So I gaze on you in the sanctuary

  to see your strength and your glory.

For your love is better than life,

  my lips will speak your praise.

 

For you my soul is thirsting, O God, my God.

 

So I will bless you all my life,

  in your name I will lift up my hands.

My soul shall be filled as with a banquet,

  my mouth shall praise you with joy.

 

For you my soul is thirsting, O God, my God.

 

On my bed I remember you.

  On you I muse through the night

for you have been my help;

  in the shadow of your wings I rejoice.

 

For you my soul is thirsting, O God, my God.

 

 

Second Reading – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 ©

 

Do Not Grieve About Those Who Have Died in Jesus

 

We want you to be quite certain, brothers, about those who have died, to make sure that you do not grieve about them, like the other people who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and that it will be the same for those who have died in Jesus: God will bring them with him. We can tell you this from the Lord’s own teaching, that any of us who are left alive until the Lord’s coming will not have any advantage over those who have died. At the trumpet of God, the voice of the archangel will call out the command and the Lord himself will come down from heaven; those who have died in Christ will be the first to rise, and then those of us who are still alive will be taken up in the clouds, together with them; to meet the Lord in the air. So we shall stay with the Lord for ever. With such thoughts as these you should comfort one another.

 

 

Gospel Acclamation – Matthew 24:42, 44

 

Alleluia, alleluia!

 

Stay awake and stand ready, because you do not know the hour when the Son of Man is coming.

 

Alleluia!

 

 

The Gospel According to Matthew 25:1 - 13 ©

 

The Wise and Foolish Virgins

 

Jesus told this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven will be like this: Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were sensible: the foolish ones did take their lamps, but they brought no oil, whereas the sensible ones took flasks of oil as well as their lamps. The bridegroom was late, and they all grew drowsy and fell asleep. But at midnight there was a cry, “The bridegroom is here! Go out and meet him.” At this, all those bridesmaids woke up and trimmed their lamps, and the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, “Give us some of your oil: our lamps are going out.” But they replied, “There may not be enough for us and for you; you had better go to those who sell it and buy some for yourselves.” They had gone off to buy it when the bridegroom arrived. Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding hall and the door was closed. The other bridesmaids arrived later. “Lord, Lord,” they said “open the door for us.” But he replied, “I tell you solemnly, I do not know you.” So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour.’

 

 

The Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

 



Sunday, March 15, 2020

A Homily - Third Sunday of Lent (Year A)


First Reading - Exodus 17:3-7 ©
Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 94(95):1-2, 6-9 ©
Second Reading – Romans 5:1-2, 5-8 ©
Gospel Acclamation – John 4:42, 15
The Gospel According to John – 4:5 - 42 ©

(NJB)

Third Sunday of Lent (Year A)


Listen!


God did not cause water to flow from the rock in Horeb. God did not lead the people through the desert.

God had nothing to do with any of the events described in the reading for today, the faith of the Church cannot be built on lies, and the truth is this; none of these things ever even happened.

We may take the narrative metaphorically; if we do then the meaning is this: Trust God.

Trust in the divine, God may not free you from your immediate struggle, but God will heal us all in the end.

Be mindful!

God will make us well, it is God who creates in us the possibility of wellbeing.

God is our wellbeing, but know this: God is not a king.

The whole of creation belongs to God, all that is good and all that we fear, everything comes from God, and everything we experience will redound to the good.

Listen!

It is good to show our respect for the creator and to sing songs in praise of God, therefore remember, God, the creator of the universe, God is our loving parent and has prepared each of us for God’s blessing.

Consider the teaching of the apostle.

When we say that we are judged as righteous, and that we are at peace with God by faith; we mean to say that our trust in God’s promise of peace, and God’s promise regarding the restoration of the entire world, it is our faith in these things that allows us to lead lives that are righteous, just, merciful and humble.

If we boast that our faith, this trust in God’s plan for the entire human race allows us to see the coming of God, it is only because we know that God dwells within us already, and in the  relationships we have with each other, when we look into each other’s hearts, then we are able to see the beauty of the divine. It is present in us, and fully manifest when we are loving and caring toward each other.

Know this!

Contrary to what the apostle taught, Jesus was not a sacrificial victim. His blood did not have magic powers. God, the creator of the universe does not love holocausts and burnt offerings.

God loves mercy and God love justice.

Jesus acted mercifully and with full regard for his followers when he allowed himself to be taken to the cross, many would have died if he had not. He gave his life to save them, to save them in their own time and place, he did not give his life as a cosmic sacrifice for the sins of the world.

Consider the gospel for today.

This is not a story about who Jesus is. Though most readers and interpreters of the sacred text treat it as such.

This is not a story about the Messiah or the Christ or living water, and it is not a story about baptism, or the mercy of Jesus.
In sitting down with the woman by the well Jesus was not doing anything extraordinary. He was simply following the way and teaching it through his actions.

This is a story about discipleship, and the first Apostle of the Christian Church; she was a woman, a woman without a husband, she was an outsider and a Samaritan.

It is clear from the text that this Samaritan woman was a person of influence in her community, we know this because after she met Jesus she went to speak with the people of her town, and on the strength of her testimony we are told that the entire community converted to the faith.

They became the very first church, an entire community of believers, formed by the witness of this woman, who shared with them the compassion of Jesus, and brought them into the way.

Jesus says to the disciples who came late in the day after this encounter, that the harvest is already coming in, he was speaking of the work that began with this woman, she began the harvest on her own.

This is why Jesus told the disciples that they would take credit for the work that others had done, because even though this story endured, the woman by the well was never given the credit she deserved, one or another of the disciples took credit for the founding of that community in the end.

Be mindful of this, follow Jesus in the way, not the prideful nature of the disciples.

The Gospel of the day is a remarkable story of egalitarianism, and the way of true Christians, a way that does not define the authority of its members by gender or class, or station. It recognizes the authority of those who have it, having been given it by their acknowledgment of the truth and the spirit that is within them.



Strike the Rock, and Water Will Flow from It

Tormented by thirst, the people complained against Moses. ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt?’ they said. ‘Was it so that I should die of thirst, my children too, and my cattle?’

Moses appealed to the Lord. ‘How am I to deal with this people?” he said. ‘A little more and they will stone me!’ the Lord said to Moses, ‘Take with you some of the elders of Israel and move on to the forefront of the people; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the river, and go. I shall be standing before you there on the rock, at Horeb. You must strike the rock, and water will flow from it for the people to drink.’ This is what Moses did, in the sight of the elders of Israel. The place was named Massah and Meribah because of the grumbling of the sons of Israel and because they put the Lord to the test by saying, ‘Is the Lord with us, or not?’


Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 94(95):1-2, 6-9 ©

O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’

Come, ring out our joy to the Lord;
  hail the rock who saves us.
Let us come before him, giving thanks,
  with songs let us hail the Lord.

O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’

Come in; let us bow and bend low;
  let us kneel before the God who made us:
for he is our God and we
  the people who belong to his pasture,
  the flock that is led by his hand.

O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’

O that today you would listen to his voice!
  ‘Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
  as on that day at Massah in the desert
when your fathers put me to the test;
  when they tried me, though they saw my work.’

O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’


Second Reading – Romans 5:1-2, 5-8 ©

The Love of God Has Been Poured Into Our Hearts

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, by faith we are judged righteous and at peace with God, since it is by faith and through Jesus that we have entered this state of grace in which we can boast about looking forward to God’s glory. And this hope is not deceptive, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us. We were still helpless when at his appointed moment Christ died for sinful men. It is not easy to die even for a good man – though of course for someone really worthy, a man might be prepared to die – but what proves that God loves us is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners.


Gospel Acclamation – John 4:42, 15

Glory to you, O Christ, you are the Word of God!

Lord, you are really the saviour of the world:
give me the living water, so that I may never get thirsty.

Glory to you, O Christ, you are the Word of God!


The Gospel According to John – 4:5 - 42 ©

A Spring of Water Welling Up to Eternal Life

Jesus came to the Samaritan town called Sychar, near the land that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well is there and Jesus, tired by the journey, sat straight down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’

His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.

The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘What? You are a Jew and you ask me, a Samaritan, for a drink?’ – Jews, in fact, do not associate with Samaritans. Jesus replied:

‘If you only knew what God is offering and who it is that is saying to you:

Give me a drink, you would have been the one to ask, and he would have given you living water.’

‘You have no bucket, sir,’ she answered ‘and the well is deep:
how could you get this living water? Are you a greater man than our father Jacob who gave us this well and drank from it himself with his sons and his cattle?’

Jesus replied:

‘Whoever drinks this water will get thirsty again; but anyone who drinks the water that I shall give will never be thirsty again:

the water that I shall give
will turn into a spring inside him,
welling up to eternal life.’

‘Sir,’ said the woman ‘give me some of that water, so that I may never get thirsty and never have to come here again to draw water.’

‘Go and call your husband’ said Jesus to her
‘and come back here.’

The woman answered, ‘I have no husband.’

He said to her, ‘You are right to say, “I have no husband”; for although you have had five, the one you have now is not your husband. You spoke the truth there.’

‘I see you are a prophet, sir’ said the woman. ‘Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, while you say that Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.’ Jesus said:

‘Believe me, woman,
the hour is coming
when you will worship the Father
neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
You worship what you do not know;
we worship what we do know:

for salvation comes from the Jews.
But the hour will come
– in fact it is here already –
when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth:

that is the kind of worshipper the Father wants.

God is spirit, and those who worship
must worship in spirit and truth.’

The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah – that is, Christ – is coming; and when he comes he will tell us everything.’

‘I who am speaking to you,’ said Jesus ‘I am he.’

At this point his disciples returned, and were surprised to find him speaking to a woman, though none of them asked, ‘What do you want from her?’ or, ‘Why are you talking to her?’

The woman put down her water jar and hurried back to the town to tell the people. ‘Come and see a man who has told me everything I ever did; I wonder if he is the Christ?’ This brought people out of the town and they started walking towards him.

Meanwhile, the disciples were urging him, ‘Rabbi, do have something to eat; but he said, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ So the disciples asked one another, ‘Has someone been bringing him food?’

But Jesus said:

‘My food is to do the will of the one who sent me, and to complete his work.

Have you not got a saying:

Four months and then the harvest?

Well, I tell you:

Look around you, look at the fields;
already they are white, ready for harvest!
Already the reaper is being paid his wages,
already he is bringing in the grain for eternal life, and thus sower and reaper rejoice together.

For here the proverb holds good:

one sows, another reaps; I sent you to reap a harvest you had not worked for.

Others worked for it; and you have come into the rewards of their trouble.’

Many Samaritans of that town had believed in him on the strength of the woman’s testimony when she said, ‘He told me all I have ever done’, so, when the Samaritans came up to him, they begged him to stay with them. He stayed for two days, and when he spoke to them many more came to believe; and they said to the woman, ‘Now we no longer believe because of what you told us; we have heard him ourselves and we know that he really is the saviour of the world.’


Third Sunday of Lent (Year A)