Praising and Obeying God with St. Thomas Aquinas, Third Tuesday (II), January 28, 2014

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Tuesday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor
January 28, 2014
2 Sam 6:12-15.17-19, Ps 24, Mk 3:31-35

To listen to an audio recording of this homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today we continue Catholic Schools Week by being good students of the Master as he teaches us our whole life long in the Mass through Sacred Scripture. Today we do so with the intercession of the second greatest teacher in the history of the Church after Jesus himself, and the patron saint of students, St. Thomas Aquinas, whose feast we rejoice to celebrate.
  • Today in the Gospel Jesus teaches us about what constitutes true familiarity with him. It’s not blood or genes, like Mary or his male and female cousins in today’s Gospel shared with him. We would say it’s also not merely his own blood flowing through us through our becoming one body with Him in Baptism. He says that his mother and brothers and sisters are “anyone who does the will of God.” This is, of course, what characterized the Blessed Mother above all, someone who par excellence heard the Word of God and let her entire life become a fiat in response to that word. It’s also what is supposed to characterize us.
  • Today that teaching is very much exemplified by the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas. It was very costly for him to do God’s will because he was opposed by his family. After meeting some of the newly founded members of the Order of Preachers, popularly called the Dominicans after their founder St. Dominic, he discovered God was calling him to be one of them. But that was very much opposed by Thomas’ family, particularly his mother, who had plans for Thomas to follow her own brother as Abbot of the nearby prestigious Benedictine Monastery of Monte Cassino, where St. Benedict and St. Scholastica are buried. She would allow him to become a priest, but only a type of priest consistent with his noble birth. She absolutely didn’t want him to become a priest of a mendicant order that begged for food. She was inflexible. Thomas, therefore, when he reached majority ran away from home, heading to Paris to join the Dominicans. His mother sent his brothers, however, on horseback to capture him and bring him home, where she had him thrown into the dungeon of their castle imprisoned so that he wouldn’t escape. It’s there that they tried to break him from his desire to become a Dominican, his brothers going so far as to send a prostitute into the dungeon to try to have him fall in chastity, a temptation he thoroughly resisted. Eventually he would escape — it seems with the help of his mother, who thought it would be less embarrassing for him to escape and follow his vocation than for the family to give him permission — and head to become a Dominican.
  • But his imprisonment of more than a year was one of the most important things that happened in the history of theology, because it was during that time that Thomas, to spend his imprisonment profitably, got a copy of the Latin New Testament and memorized it inside out, so much so that for the rest of his life, the words of Christ, the insights of the apostles, were on the tip of his tongue, something that strengthened all that he every wrote.
  • Thomas was a phenomenal student, but also very humble. Because he never answered questions in class, many of his classmates called him the “Dumb Ox,” because of his size. But his professor, St. Albert, who knew of his written work, said that his “mooing” would one day echo around the world. Thomas sought to united revelation to reason, with the help of the recently discovered texts of Aristotle, so that reason would help to deepen our understanding of the faith and faith would purify reason. Since the truths of faith and reason both come from God he knew that they could never truly be in conflict, just apparent conflict, and he began an incredibly prodigious output of writing that has influenced Christian theology and philosophy ever since.
  • But as influential as his theological and philosophical corpus has been in the history of Christian thought, I believe his greatest legacy flowed out of his prayerful heart. After the Eucharistic Miracle of Bolsena, Pope Urban IV asked him and St. Bonaventure to compose the Office to celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi — the hymns, the lessons, the prayers. St. Thomas won the competition against his holy Franciscan friend. And we are still very much profiting from the fruits of his contemplation. He wrote the Tantum Ergo and the O Salutaris we still sing at Eucharistic Adoration. He wrote the Panis Angelicus. He wrote the Adoro Te Devote. They all flow from his Eucharistic piety. I’ve always been very impacted by one of his lines from the Sacris Solemnis, the last two verses of which form the Panis Angelicus: “O Res mirabilis, manducat Dominum, pauper servus et humilis.” “O what an unbelievable reality: a poor and humble servant eats his Lord.” Thomas in all his Eucharistic writings exemplified the same spirit we see in King David in today’s first reading, when he came dancing before the Ark of the Lord “with abandon.” He was so happy that he responded with the ebullient joy of a little kid, even though later his wife Michal, the daughter of Saul, would lambaste him for not acting with the reserved dignity of a king. David, however, couldn’t restrain his joy and enthusiasm. Likewise, St. Thomas let out all of his love for the Lord in his Eucharistic hymns and he’s been forming all of us ever since in that same love for the Lord and same wonder for the miraculous reality that the Lord we devoutly worship before this so great a Sacrament we actually are given the privilege to consume.
  • That leads to the last point I’d like to say about St. Thomas, which sums up his entire life. He died at the age of 49. Toward the end of his life he had a mystical experience before the Crucifix, something attested to by one of St. Thomas’ secretaries who was an eye witness. Jesus from the Crucifix spoke to Thomas saying, “You have written well of me, Thomas. What would you ask for in response?” Thomas replied, “Nisi te, Domine!” I want nothing but you, Lord! His whole life, his whole treasure, was the Lord. The Lord was the One he sought in his vocation even against the objections and obstacles of his family. The Lord was the One he sought in his study of Sacred Scripture and all his Sacred Theology. The Lord was the One he loved in all of his Eucharistic hymns. He only and always wanted the Lord as his reward, and now, on this feast day, we rejoice with him that with all the saints he is dancing before the Lord in heaven.
  • At the beginning of this Mass we prayed to God that he would grant us to “understand what [St. Thomas] taught and imitate what we accomplished.” Few will ever be able to read and understand all St. Thomas’ theology, but we can understand the most important thing he taught — about the primacy of the love and worship of God — as we pray that we may imitate what he accomplished, doing God’s holy will with abandon, so that we might be able to enjoy forever with him the “res mirabilis” of eternal life!

The readings for today’s Mass were:

Reading 1
2 SM 6:12B-15, 17-19

David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom
into the City of David amid festivities.
As soon as the bearers of the ark of the LORD had advanced six steps,
he sacrificed an ox and a fatling.
Then David, girt with a linen apron,
came dancing before the LORD with abandon,
as he and all the house of Israel were bringing up the ark of the LORD
with shouts of joy and to the sound of the horn.
The ark of the LORD was brought in and set in its place
within the tent David had pitched for it.
Then David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD.
When he finished making these offerings,
he blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts.
He then distributed among all the people,
to each man and each woman in the entire multitude of Israel,
a loaf of bread, a cut of roast meat, and a raisin cake.
With this, all the people left for their homes.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 24:7, 8, 9, 10

R. (8) Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!
Lift up, O gates, your lintels;
reach up, you ancient portals,
that the king of glory may come in!
R. Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!
Who is this king of glory?
The LORD, strong and mighty,
the LORD, mighty in battle.
R. Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!
Lift up, O gates, your lintels;
reach up, you ancient portals,
that the king of glory may come in!
R. Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!
Who is this king of glory?
The LORD of hosts; he is the king of glory.
R. Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!

Gospel
MK 3:31-35

The mother of Jesus and his brothers arrived at the house.
Standing outside, they sent word to Jesus and called him.
A crowd seated around him told him,
“Your mother and your brothers and your sisters
are outside asking for you.”
But he said to them in reply,
“Who are my mother and my brothers?”
And looking around at those seated in the circle he said,
“Here are my mother and my brothers.
For whoever does the will of God
is my brother and sister and mother.”