St. Thomas Aquinas

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2014/11/14 at 12:00 AM

• Amongst the religious art in the Louvre Museum in Paris is a beautiful painting of the angelic doctor of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas.  The masterpiece, which was painted by Benozzo Gozzoli in 1471, is entitled: “The Triumph of St. Thomas Aquinas,” and it shows St. Thomas seated with Aristotle and Plato to his right and left. At the saint’s feet is the defeated Muslim philosopher Averoës, who led many Christians into heresy with his interpretations of Aristotle.

• Above St. Thomas is our Lord, surrounded by St. Paul, Moses, and the four Evangelists, with the inscription: “Bene scipsisti deme Thomma”: “You have written well of me, Thomas.”

• I mention this painting because of St. Thomas’ connection with our second reading today.

• In our second reading today we hear St. Paul’s famous treatise on the importance of love in his 1st Letter to the Corinthians. This is one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible, and it’s a reading that is often used very fittingly at weddings.

• In this passage St. Paul tells us of the absolute necessity of living a life of love. In fact, St.Paul makes the point that it doesn’t matter how many talents or other virtues we have; if we fail to love, then nothing else matters.

• “If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophesy, and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”

• “If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

• St. Paul then goes on to tell us the characteristics of true love or charity, namely that it is patient, kind, not jealous or pompous, not inflated or rude, and does not seek its own interests. True love is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury.

• On the contrary, St. Paul tells us that Christian charity bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. It never fails.

• St. Thomas Aquinas wrote extensively and well about the virtue of charity. And he teaches us that as we go about living our lives, we must always seek to grow in this most important virtue of charity, for growth in this virtue helps to perfect all the other virtues within us.

• St. Thomas referred to charity as the “form” of the virtues, meaning that as we grow in charity, all of the other virtues are perfected within us.

• But perhaps the most important element of Christian love or charity that we must not overlook, and that St. Paul states in this second reading, is that true love does not rejoice over wrong-doing but rather rejoices with the truth.

• And this is something with which St. Thomas Aquinas whole-heartedly agreed: love and truth can never be separated but must necessarily go hand-in-hand.

• In fact, in Gozzoli’s painting of St. Thomas there is a sunburst over the saint’s heart, a Christian symbol of wisdom that highlights this most important connection between love and truth.

• Moreover, this absolutely essential connection between charity and truth is something that our Holy Father wrote about in his third encyclical: Caritas in Veritate.

• Pope Benedict explains in this encyclical that charity, grounded in truth, is “the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity.”

• The Holy Father goes on to say that: “A Christianity of charity without truth would be more or less interchangeable with a pool of good sentiments, helpful for social cohesion, but of little relevance” (§ 1-4).

• The point here is that while we all probably understand the necessity of and see the goodness in living a life of love, we must remember that love is not truly love if it is not grounded in or does not reflect truth. For love to be love, it must conform to the objective reality of truth.

• As Catholics we know that truth is not some abstract idea that we can shape and bend to our own desires and wants. Truth is not something that we create of our own. Truth is not a subjective reality capable of changing from one person to the next.

• As Catholics we know that truth is that which conforms to reality. And Truth is a Person: Jesus Christ.

• Therefore when we say that love and truth must necessarily go hand-in-hand, we are saying that our love for others, if it be true, must needs be grounded in Jesus Christ and His teachings, which have been revealed to us through the one, holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church!

• Thus, any action that does not conform to the teachings of Church cannot be properly called love or charity. So for example, an unmarried couple who wishes to show their love for one another through the conjugal act is not acting with true love or charity at all.

• While they may indeed have “loving” feelings for one another, engaging in a conjugal act can never be an act of love for an unmarried couple because it is gravely sinful. Instead, the unmarried couple shows true love and charity for one another by chastely restraining from such actions until they are married.

• As another example, a parent who chooses out of a loving sentiment not to discipline or correct his child when the child misbehaves is not really loving the child at all, for a child will not learn to behave well unless he is corrected for misbehaving.

• Sometimes true love requires doing or saying the hard thing. We see evidenced by our Lord in today’s Gospel when He rebukes the people of Nazareth for their lack of faith.

• The point is that true love, true Christian charity is not a sentimental feeling but an act of the reason and the will that reflects a conformity to truth. Thus, it often requires sacrifice, courage, and a willingness to suffer for the sake of the one who is loved.

• As St. Paul says: true Christian love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” It never fails.  Hear this.

• In writing a treatise on the Gospel of St. John, St. Augustine famously penned the short precept: “Love, and do what you will.”

• In writing this St. Augustine’s was stating that every action of our lives, no matter how large or small, should be grounded in the virtue of charity. Everything that we do should spring from love.

• And this is because if all that we say and do is rooted in true charity, then nothing but good can come from it. True charity always leads us in the right path. It always leads us according to God’s most holy will.

• In essence, if we live a life of love, if all our thoughts, words, and actions are imbued with true charity, then we will have nothing to fear in the afterlife for we will be people of surpassing virtue and holiness.

• My dear friends in Christ, our Lord has graciously given all of us the gifts of faith, hope, and love at our baptisms. But as St. Paul tells us today, the greatest of these is love.

• Let us seek to make true Christian charity, which is grounded in truth, the guiding principle of our lives. And let us trust that in so doing, we will reflect well the love of our Lord, Jesus Christ, Who is the way, the truth, and the life.

Copyright 2010 by Reverend Timothy S. Reid

Reverend Reid is pastor of St. Ann’s Catholic  Church in Charlotte, NC


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