Twenty-Second Sunday of the Year
After appealing to the Letter of James, “Religion clean and undefiled before our God and Father is this: looking after orphans and widows in their distress…” (James 1:27), Thomas comments, “And just as out of charity we love our neighbor for God’s sake, so the services we render our neighbor redound to God, according to ‘As long as you did it to one of these least of My brothers, you did it to Me’ (Mt 25:40). Consequently, those services which we render our neighbor, in so far as we refer them to God, are described as sacrifices… and it belongs properly to religion to offer sacrifice to God…”(2a2a. 188, 2).
“Since religious occupy themselves with the works of the active life for God’s sake, it follows that their action results from their contemplation of divine things. Hence they are not entirely deprived of the fruit of the contemplative life” (2a2a. 188, 2, ad 1).
“A man may be in the world in two ways: in one way by his bodily presence, in another way by the bent of his mind. Hence our Lord said to His disciples ‘I have chosen you out of the world’ (Jn 15:19), and, yet speaking of them to His Father He said, ‘These are in the world, and I come to You’ (Jn 17:11). Although, then, religious who are occupied with the works of the active life are in the world as to the presence of the body, they are not in the world as regards their bent of mind, because they are occupied with external things, not as seeking anything of the world, but merely for the sake of serving God: ‘for they… use the world, as if they used it not’ (1 Cor 7:31). Hence, after it is stated that ‘religion clean and undefiled… is to care for orphans and widows in their distress,’ it is added, ‘and to keep one’s self unspotted from this world,’ namely, to avoid being attached to worldly things” (2a2a. 188, 2, ad 3).
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, 2a2a. 188, 2. Vol. II trans. English Dominicans (New York: Benzinger Brothers, 1947), 1993-1994.
Twenty-First Sunday of the year
St. Thomas comments on the fact that many found Jesus’ teaching a “hard saying.”
“A saying is hard either because it resists the intellect or because it resists the will. And this saying was hard for them in both ways. It was hard for their intellects because it exceeded the weakness of their intellects: for since they were earthly minded, they were incapable of understanding what He said, namely that He would give them His flesh to eat. And it was hard for their wills, because He said many things about the power of His divinity: and although they believed Him as a prophet, they did not believe that He was God. Consequently, it seemed to them that He was making Himself greater than He was… Because He was not teaching them things that were pleasing to them, they were waiting for an occasion to leave Him” (984).
“But since teachers should avoid creating difficulties for those who are listening to them, why did our Lord mention those things that would upset people and have them leave. I answer that Christ had to mention such things because His teaching required it. For they had pleaded with Him for material food, when He had come to strengthen their desire for spiritual food; and so He had to make known to them His teaching on spiritual food” (987).
“The occasion for their scandal was when they heard our Lord say divine things about Himself. And so, because they believed that He was the son of Joseph, they were upset at what He said about Himself” (988).
“Let us note that Christ is one Person: the person of the Son of God and the person of the Son of Man being the same person. Still, because of His different natures, something belongs to Christ by reason of His human nature, that is, to ascend, which does not belong to Him according by reason of His divine nature, according to which He does not ascend, since He is eternally at the highest summit of things, that is, in the Father. It is according to His human nature, that it belongs to Him to ascend to where He was before, that is to heaven, where He had not been in His human nature…” (989).
“What our Lord said about eating His flesh is interpreted in a material way when it is understood in its superficial manner, and as pertaining to the nature of flesh… But our Lord said that He would give Himself to them as spiritual food, not as though the true flesh of Christ is not present in the sacrament o the altar, but because it is eaten in a certain spiritual and divine way. Thus the correct meaning of these words is spiritual, not material. So He says, ‘The words that I have spoken to you, (about eating My flesh), are spirit and life, that is, they have a spiritual meaning, and understood in this way, they give life…” (992).
“Augustine explains this passage in a different way, for he understands the statement, ‘flesh profits nothing,’ as referring to the flesh of Christ. It is obvious that the flesh of Christ, as united to the Word and to the Spirit, does profit very much and in every way; otherwise, the Word would have been made flesh in vain, and the Father would have made Him known in the flesh in vain… And so we should say that it is the flesh of Christ, considered in itself, that profits nothing and does not have any more beneficial effect than any other flesh. But if it is united o the Spirit and the divinity, it profits many, because it makes those who receive it abide in Christ, for man abides in God through the Spirit of love: ‘We know that we abide in God and God in us, because He has given us His Spirit’ ( 1 Jn 4;13). And this is what our Lord says: the effect I promise you, that is, eternal life, should not be attributed to My flesh as such, because understood in this way, ‘flesh profits nothing.’ But my flesh does offer eternal life as united to the Spirit and to the divinity. ‘If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit’ (Gal 5:25). And so He adds, ‘The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life, i.e. they must be understood of the Spirit united to My flesh; and so understood they are life, that is, the life of the soul. For as the body lives life through a bodily spirit, so the soul lives a spiritual life through the Holy Spirit: ‘Send forth Your spirit, and they will be created’ (Ps 103:30)” (993).
“Our Lord next mentioned the cause of their unbelief, which was the withdrawal of attracting grace. Thus He said: ‘… no one can come to Me, i.e., through faith, unless it be given to him by My Father.’ It follows from this, according to St. Augustine, that the act of believing itself is given to us by God…Christ received them in the faith more for their advantage and benefit than for His own: ‘It has been granted to you to believe in Him’ (Phil 1:29). As if to say: it is good for you to believe in Him… Secondly, to show that Christ was not the son of Joseph, as they thought, but of God; for it is God the Father who draws men to the Son…” (997).
“Then follows: they ‘no longer walked with Him,’ that is, even though we are required to walk with Jesus: ‘I will show you what is good… to walk attentively with your God’ (Mi 6:8)” (998).
“Our Lord did not want them to stay with Him because they were forced to do so out of embarrassment, because to serve unwillingly is not to serve at all, and so He took away any embarrassment in their leaving or necessity for their staying, and left it to their own judgment whether they wanted to stay with Him or leave, because ‘God loves a cheerful giver’ ( 2 Cor 9:7)”
“For in our faith there are two things above all that must be believed: the mystery of the Trinity, and the Incarnation. And these two Peter professed here. He professed the mystery of the Trinity when he said, ‘You are the Son of God’: for in calling Christ the Son of God He mentioned the person of the Father and that of the Son, along with the person of the Holy Spirit, who is the love of the Father and of the Son, and the bond or nexus of both. He professed the mystery of the Incarnation, when he said, ‘You are the Christ’: for in Greek, the word ‘Christ’ means ‘anointed’; anointed, that is, with the invisible oil of the Holy Spirit. He was not anointed according to divine nature, because one who is anointed by the Holy Spirit is made better by that anointed. But Christ, as far as He is God, is not made better. Thus, Christ was anointed as man,
He said, ‘We have come to believe and to know, because believing comes before knowing. And therefore, if we wanted to know before believing, we would neither know nor be able to believe…” (1004)
St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, Part I, 983-1004, trans. James A. Weisheipl, O.P. and Fabian Larcher, O.P. (Albany, NY: Magi Books, Inc., 1980), 390-397.
Nineteenth Sunday of the Year
Jesus said: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me, draws him” (Jn 6:45).
St. Thomas explains: “The Father draws men to the Son in many ways, using the different ways in which we are drawn without compulsion. One person may draw another by persuading him with a reason. The Father draws us to the Son by showing us that He is the Son…
There is an interior impulse that incites and moves us to believe. And so the Father draws many to the Son by the impulse of a divine action, moving a person’s heart from within to believe: ‘It is God who is working in us, both to will and to accomplish’ (Phil 2:13); ‘I will draw them … with bands of love’ (Hos 11:4)” (935).
“The Father draws us to Christ as man insofar as He gives us His own power so that we may believe in Christ: ‘You are all saved by grace, through faith; and this is not due to yourself, for it is a gift of God’ (Eph 2:8). Insofar as He is Christ, He is the Word of God and manifests the Father. It is in this way that the Son draws us to the Father. But the Father draws us to the Son insofar as He manifests the Son” (936).
“For just as a heavy object by its nature cannot rise up, but has to be lifted by someone else, so the human heart, which tends of itself to lower things, cannot rise to what is above unless it is drawn or lifted. And if it does not rise up, this is not due to the failure of the one lifting it, who, so far as lies in Him, fails no one; rather, it is due to an obstacle in the one who is not drawn or lifted up”
“God in so far as it depends on Him, extends His hand to everyone, to draw every one; and what is more, He not only draws those who receive Him by the hand, but also converts those who are turned away from Him, according to ‘Covert us, O Lord, to Yourself, and we shall be converted’ (Lam 5:21)… Therefore, since God is ready to give grace to all, and draw them to Himself, it is not due to Him if someone does not accept; rather it is due to the person who does not accept” (937).
This drawing by the Father is most effective, because ‘Every one who has heard the Father and has learned, comes to Me.’ Here, He mentions two things: first, what relates to a gift of God, when He says, ‘has heard,’ that is, through God, who reveals; the other relates to a free judgment, when He says, ‘and has learned,’ that is, by an assent. These two are necessary for every teaching of faith. ‘Every one who has heard the Father, [teaching and making know], and has learned, [by giving assent], comes to Me” (945).
“He comes in three ways: though a knowledge of the truth; through the affection of love; and through imitative action. And in each way it is necessary that one hear and learn. The one who comes through a knowledge of the truth must hear, when God speaks within: ‘I will hear what the Lord God will speak within me’ (Ps 84:9); and he must learn, through affection… he must hear the word of the Father and grasp it, in order to learn and be moved in his affections. For that person learns the word who grasps it according to the meaning of the speaker. But the Word of the Father breathes forth love. Therefore, the one, who grasps it with eager love, learns… One comes to Christ through imitative action, according to: ‘Come to Me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you’ (Mt 11:28)” (946).
“No one can know the Father except through Christ, who makes Him known; and no one can come to the Son unless He has heard from the Father, who makes the Son known” (948).
St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, Part I, 934-948, trans. James A. Weisheipl, O.P. and Fabian Larcher, O.P. (Albany, NY: Magi Books, Inc., 1980), 369-377.
Twentieth Sunday of the Year
St. Thomas Aquinas comments on Jesus’ words, “And the bread that I will give is My flesh…”
“He then speaks of His body when He says, ‘And the bread which I will give is My flesh.’ For He had said that He was the living bread; and so that we do not think that He is such so far as He is the Word or in His soul alone, He shows that even His flesh is life-giving, for it is an instrument of His divinity. Thus, since an instrument acts by virtue of the agent, then just as the divinity of Christ is life-giving, so too His flesh gives life… because of the Word to which it is united. Thus Christ healed the sick by His touch. So what He said above, ‘I am the living Bread,’ pertains to the power of the Word; but what He is saying here pertains to the sharing of His body, that is, to the sacrament of the Eucharist” (959).
“The author of this sacrament is Christ: for although the priest confers it, it is Christ Himself who gives the power to this sacrament, because the priest consecrates in the person of Christ. Thus in the other sacraments the priest uses His own words or those of the Church, but in this sacrament He uses the words of Christ: because just as Christ gave His body to death by His own will, so it is by His own power that He gives Himself as food: ‘Jesus took bread, He blessed it and broke it, and gave it to His disciples, saying: ‘Take and eat it, this is My body’ (Mt 26:26)…” (961).
“The usefulness of this sacrament is great and universal. It is great, indeed, because it produces spiritual life within us now, and will later produce eternal life… Since this is the sacrament of the Lord’s passion, it contains in itself the Christ who suffered. Thus, whatever is an effect of our Lord’s passion is also an effect of this sacrament. For this sacrament is nothing other than the application of our Lord’s passion to us. For it was not fitting for Christ to be always with us in His own presence; and so He wanted to make up for this absence through this sacrament. Hence, it is clear that the destruction of death, which Christ accomplished by His death, and the restoration of life, which He accomplishes by His resurrection, are effects of this sacrament” (963).
“As if to say: You think it is impossible and unbecoming to eat My flesh. But it is not only possible, but very necessary, so much so that ‘unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you will not have life, i.e…. you will not be able to have, ‘life in you,’ that is, spiritual life. For just as material food is so necessary for bodily life that without it you cannot exist… so spiritual food is necessary for the spiritual life to such an extent that without it the spiritual life cannot be sustained: ‘Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word which comes from the mouth of God’ (Dt 8:3)” (968).
“For this spiritual food is similar to material food in the fact that without it there can be no spiritual life, just as there cannot be bodily life without bodily food… But this food has more than the other, because it produces in the one who receives it an unending life, which material food does not do…
Now one has eternal life who eats and drinks not only in a sacramental way, but also in a spiritual way. One eats and drinks sacramentally or in a sacramental way, if he receives the sacrament; and one eats and drinks spiritually or in a spiritual way, if he attains to the reality of the sacrament. This reality of the sacrament is twofold: one is contained and signified, and this is the whole Christ, who is contained under the species of bread and wine. The other reality is signified but not contained, and this is the mystical body of Christ, which is in the predestined, the called, and the justified.
Thus, in reference to Christ, as contained and signified, one eats His flesh and drinks His blood in a spiritual way if he is united to Him through faith and love, so that one is transformed into Him and becomes His member: for this food is not changed into the one who eats it, but it turns the one who takes it into itself… And so this is a food capable of making man divine and inebriating him with divinity. The same is true in reference to the mystical body of Christ, which is only signified if one shares in the unity of the Church. Therefore, one who eats in these ways has eternal life. That this is true of the first way, in reference to Christ, is clear enough. In the same way, in reference to the mystical body of Christ, one will necessarily have eternal life if he perseveres: for the unity of the Church is brought about by the Holy Spirit: ‘One Body, one Spirit… the pledge of our eternal inheritance’ (Eph 4:4; 1:14). So this bread is very profitable, because it gives eternal life to the soul; but it also gives eternal life to the body”(972).
St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, Part I, 959-972, trans. James A. Weisheipl, O.P. and Fabian Larcher, O.P. (Albany, NY: Magi Books, Inc., 1980), 380- 386.
Feast of St. Dominic
In her book, The Dialogue, St. Catherine of Siena records theinspired words she received from the Father regarding St. Dominic:
"And if you look at the ship of your father, Dominic, My beloved son, he ordered it with great perfection. For he wished that they might attend only to My honor and the salvation of souls with the light of learning. Upon this light he wanted to make his principle, not therefore being deprived of true and voluntary poverty. Indeed he had it. And in a sign that he had it and was displeased with the contrary, he left as a testimony to his sons for an inheritance his curse, if they possessed or held any possessions, individually or in common, as a sign that he had chosen for his spouse the queen of poverty. But for his more proper object he took the light of learning, to uproot the errors that at that time had risen. He took the work of the Word, My only-begotten Son. Rightly he seemed an apostle in the world, with such truth and light he sowed My word, lifting the darkness and giving the light. He was a light that I offered to the world by means of Mary, set in the mystic body of the holy Church, as an uprooter of heresies. Why did I say, 'by means of Mary'? Because Mary gave him the habit, the work given to her by My goodness. Upon what table did he make his sons eat with the light of learning? At the table of the cross, upon which cross is set the table of holy desire, where one eats souls for My honor. He wanted his children to attend only at staying at this table with the light of learning, to seek only the glory and praise of My name and the salvation of souls. And so that they might not attend to something other, he took from them the care of material things and he wanted them to be poor. Is it true that he was lacking in faith, fearing that might not be provided for? He was not lacking, because he had clothed himself with faith, but with a firm hope he hoped in My providence. He wished that they observe obedience and they may be obedient to do that which for which they are set. And because immoral living clouds the eye of the understanding, and not only of the understanding, but with this miserable vice one lacks bodily sight, so he did not want the light to be impeded by this. With this better light they acquire more perfectly the light of learning. And so he set the third vow of chastity. And in everything he wished that they observe it with true and perfect obedience. Certainly today it is badly observed. Indeed they pervert the light of learning in darkness with the darkness of pride. Not that this light in itself receives darkness, but it gives darkness to their soul. (Where there is pride there is not able to be obedience. And I have already told you that a person is as humble as he is obedient and as obedient as he is humble. And breaking the vow of obedience, it is rare that they do not break that of chastity and of true poverty. So he ordered his ship bound with these three ropes, with obedience, chastity and true poverty. He made it totally royal, not binding it by the fault of deadly sin. Enlightened by me, the true light, with providence he provided for those who might be less perfect. Although all those who observe the order are perfect, none the less one is still more perfect than another in life. And perfect and imperfect they all remain well in this ship. He drew himself near to My Truth, showing it by not wanting the death of the sinner but that they might be converted and might live. He made it large, wholly joyful and wholly fragrant, a most delightful garden in itself. But the miserable ones who are not observers of the order but breakers, they have made it grow wild and swollen with little fragrance of virtue and light of learning of those who are nourished at the breast of the order. I do not say 'in the order' because 'in itself', as I told you, it has every delight."
Catherine of Siena, The Dialogue, 158.