Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Getting to Know You

In the readings for tomorrow's daily Mass, the Feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas,  we continue our survey of the second book of Samuel.   In this particular reading we see King David's response to God's promise to him.  God has just promised him an everlasting kingdom, that David's throne will last forever.  David wanted to build a house for God, but instead God built an eternal home for David!  We see David as the quintessential king of the Jewish earthly Kingdom.  Scripture claims that David was a man after God's own heart. (Acts 13:22)  This particular pericope shows us exactly why.  David's response is not to gloat, his response is not to cheer and brag;  no, David responds with great humility.  He wonders in a prayer of thanksgiving who he is, or who his family is that God has even allowed them to come this far, let alone make such a generous and merciful offer to him.   He prays for his people.  He submits himself to God's will completely, proclaiming God's words to be truth and life.

David realizes as the Church proclaims today that God's word is truth.   It can be trusted.   It does not return to him void, but it accomplishes the task for which it was sent. (Isaiah 55:11, CCC 215)   That's because God himself is truth.  He doesn't just have that characteristic, but he is the source of all truth.  (CCC 2465)  That is why we as Catholics do not believe in relativism.  We believe that truth itself is static, it does not change.  That's because truth exists outside of ourselves.  If it only existed inside of us, as some sort of intellectual endeavor, then every person is right.   That would mean believe that Hitler, Bundy, Stalin, etc. were all right in their actions.  Their belief that people should be murdered was truth... it just wasn't our truth.  "You do you, and I'll do me" the kids say.  "We will agree to disagree."  "Your truth is yours, but I believe...."  That is a dangerous slope.  One I do not wish to tread down.

Jesus gives us another way.  He tells us in the Gospel that the light of God cannot be hidden under a basket, but that God's word must be placed like a city on a hill, for all the world to see.  God's truth is not something that is hidden, it's not some Gnostic truth that can only be found with the right words, right rituals, or right amount of intelligence.  Rather, God's truth is evident through reason, logic, and rational thought.  Nature itself calls out to the existence of God and to the basic truths of our universe.  God has given us a Natural Law, one that calls out to not only his existence, but to an order.... It calls out to a static truth, a source of truth outside the human experience, a truth that says some things are just wrong... period.. no matter who does them, no matter what they believe... It says that in essence, it doesn't matter what your opinion or my opinion is.. the truth is not affected by opinion.. but exists in and of itself.

Saint Thomas Aquinas saw this miraculous nature of the universe and spent a great deal of his life studying and writing about it.   His genius has formed the philosophical nature of our faith as we have come to know it today, and has been a major influence on mankind.  He was indeed a light for God, shining throughout time to lead people to the truth.  He worked tirelessly to explore proof of God through scientific and philosophical means, and indeed wrote many documents proving just that. As a Protestant I believed in Scripture Alone... oh, how sad that must make the Father when he has given us such beautiful insight into his nature throughout the ages.  Two thousands years of writing completely ignored, reason and logic out the window, a church pushed to the side out of ignorance.. yes, a city on a hill that Luther tried to put a basket over.

You see, the Catholic church sees dogma as a light along the path of faith, a light to illuminate our path and make our footing secure. (CCC 89) God shines his light into the darkness and nothing is hidden from it.  There is a catch though.  In order for us to be the light of the world, we must come into a closer union with Christ.  It is a shame when the love of Christ is hidden behind a lukewarm spirituality.  His heart must ache terribly at all the grace that is refused by his children out of their own free will.  We must find a way to express that light, to bring that heart out into the world.  It finds its fullest expression in mercy, peace and love.

Those were the qualities of King David that God saw as a heart after his own.  A merciful, peaceful, loving King.  You and I are baptized as Priest, Prophet and King.  Jesus Christ is the epitome of that role.  Thomas Aquinas saw him as the ultimate end, the meaning to all things.  If you want to understand peace?  Look at Christ on the cross.  You want to understand joy?  Look at Christ on the cross.  You want to understand the beatitudes?  Look at Christ on the cross.  You want to understand patience?  Look at Christ on the cross.  You want to understand mercy?  You guessed it, Christ on the cross... Obedience.. humility... despising earthly things... detachment.. all found in this one man, this one figure, this one God.  

Whoever wishes to live perfectly should do nothing but disdain what Christ disdained on the cross and desire that which he desired, for the cross exemplifies every virtue.  (Collatio 6 super Credo in Deum)

Aquinas saw the glory of who God was.  He wrote volumes upon volumes about the mystery of God.  In the end though, he came to realize that God was so much more than we can describe with mere words.  God is so immense, so beyond understanding that Saint Thomas declared before his death when asked to continue writing he simply stated "I cannot, because all that I have written seems like straw to me."  At that point Thomas had gone beyond the point of trying to capture God in mere words, and sought only Christ himself.  He desired only one thing for all his labor, Jesus.

We have much to learn.  Knowledge is indeed important.  St. Jerome said "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." (CCC 133) We need to spend time with the written word of God in order to understand who God truly is.  Reading the writings of Saint Thomas and the early Church Father's is a worthwhile endeavor, something we should all strive for.   The wealth of information there is something beyond value, something that should never been hidden or taken lightly.  However, the goal is not knowledge.. it's relationship.  The goal is Christ himself.  It's not getting ot know an equation, but a person.   It's not memorizing a text, but having a conversation. 

Jesus taught his disciples in parables.  Those parables were not intended to be hidden and coveted as a knowledge that only a select few were given.  Rather, they were to become the teaching of his Church.  His Church is here to lead us, to guide us, to teach us... but more especially to bring us into relationship with the God of the universe.  That's what the Sacraments are all about.  That's what the Eucharist is all about.   Book learnin' can only take us so far.. we must spend time with Him.. we must receive Him.. we must listen directly to Him.  That is why the Sacred Scriptures declare that the Church is the pillar and source of truth (1 Timothy 3:15), and the Church in turn declares that the Eucharist is the source in summit of our faith(CCC 1324), because in the end this is about a marriage... between God and man.  You have been invited to that great wedding feast, as both a guest, and as a member of the bride..... In the end, it's all about Christ!  Do you know your husband?  Do you know your Lord?  It's time to get whatever is standing in the way out of the way, to look up at Him during the Mass and say "Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief."  (Mark 9:24)

His servant and yours,

"He must increase, I must decrease."