Wisdom 7:7-14; Matthew 13:47–52
Jesus said, “every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” Matthew 13:52
We remember today Thomas Aquinas, the great Christian theologian of the Middle Ages, born in 1225 to a noble Italian family; died at just under 50 years old a Dominican scholar, theologian, and philosopher; a prolific author; and, in the end, quite a simple child of God.
Thomas Aquinas looked back on Moses’ encounter with God as something of the most profound significance. We read in the Book of Exodus God is sending Moses as an emissary to the Pharaoh. Moses asks God, “Whom shall I say is sending me?” God discloses to Moses God’s name – “I Am Who I Am.” (1) In that disclosure in a revelation, we discover the reason for life: God is Being, the Ultimate Reality from which everything else in creation exists. Aquinas said God’s essence is to exist; we and all other creation derive our existence from God. And so the whole of creation tells God’s story. Creation reflects glory, God’s order, God’s meaning. And because God has created us with minds to understand, human reason can demonstrate that God exists. Aquinas set out to prove this in his writings.
For Aquinas, God’s revelation through creation was not just in the past, nor is it just in the present. Indeed it is, but there is more. God’s revelation is ongoing and continues into the future. We must keep our minds open to God’s ongoing revelation. There is always more. And for this reason Aquinas did not see an inconsistency or disharmony between reason and revelation. God will continue to enlighten our minds if we will only be attention. (2) God’s revelation, he said, “is not the denial of [reason], but the perfection of it.” Pay attention. God always has more to reveal to us, and this will be in harmony with what God has already revealed. Pay attention to life.
Who could have guessed where God’s ongoing revelation would lead Thomas Aquinas in the end? A few months before he died, he had a revelation, a mystical experience with Jesus, and he knew he was to end his scholarly work. His Summa Theologica would be left unfinished, which was an unanticipated but fitting conclusion to someone so committed to God’s revelation being ongoing. There would always be more, more than he could summarize. Aquinas who had plumbed the depths and soared the heights of reason and understanding, ultimately embraced a profound simplicity. That, to me, is the crown jewel of Thomas Aquinas’ witness: the movement towards simplicity, not complexity but simplicity. In the end Aquinas claimed his identity not as a scholar but as a child of God. Aquinas left us with a very simple, sweet poem about our childlike identity before God:
Whenever [God] looks at you
God sees nothing in us that He has not given.
Everything is empty until He places
what He wishes into it.
The soul is like an uninhabited world
that comes to life only when
God lays His head
The delight a child can know
tossing a ball into
my Lord confessed He experiences
whenever He looks
God sees nothing in us
that He has not
- Exodus 3:14.
- See Ephesians 1:15-23.
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