Thursday, January 28, 2016

Memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas, priest

(2 Samuel 7:18-19.24-29; Mark 4:21-25)

The philosopher said that Thomas Aquinas did not have a sufficient appreciation of Scripture.  His words sounded odd to students of Aquinas.  Was the philosopher not aware that the academic position that Thomas held was “Master of the Sacred Page”?

There are still lively debates about whether Thomas was more a philosopher or a theologian.  With the new interest in cosmology, Thomas’ writings are cited as a kind of benchmark.  But he is no less looked to as the definitive voice up to his time on matters such as grace.  A distinguished contemporary theologian remembers the place where Thomas corrects St. Augustine, the preeminent doctor of grace. The question Thomas was disputing was whether charity exists within humans as simply the presence of the Holy Spirit or whether it becomes a specifically human capacity.  Augustine held the former view, but Thomas reasoned the contrary.  He held that if God extends true friendship to humans, humans must be able to love Him with their own mind and heart.  Therefore, charity exists within them not just as the presence of God but as their own transformed capacity to love Him as friends.

We should ask how we get this ability to love God as a friend.  The answer, of course, is through Jesus, who became one of us so that we might become divine like him.  We can find this happening right now in this Eucharist.  As Thomas wrote, in this sacred banquet Christ becomes our food and grace fills our hearts.  This same grace transforms our limited human nature so that we might turn to the awesome God as our best friend.