Tag Archives: St. Thomas Aquinas

Sunday Devotional: The Importance of the Baptism of Our Lord

Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

The people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
“I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

After all the people had been baptized
and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying,
heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him
in bodily form like a dove.
And a voice came from heaven,
“You are my beloved Son;
with you I am well pleased.”

The account of Jesus’ baptism is significant for at least two reasons:

(1) The Baptism of our Lord by St. John the Baptist is one of several instances in the Old and New Testaments  (see also Genesis 1:26, John 5:7, and Matthew 28) when the nature of the Triune Godhead is revealed as the confounding mystery of three Persons in one God, which our greatest theologians had sought in vain to plumb.

St. Thomas Aquinas concluded in Summa Theologica:

We cannot come to the knowledge of the Trinity by reason alone, that is, by the natural and unaided efforts of the human mind. By our natural reason, we can know that God exists; that he is the First Cause of all; that he is one, infinite, simple, immutable, etc. But that the one God subsists in three really distinct Persons is a truth that can be known only by supernatural means. That is a truth beyond the reach of human reason to know, to prove, or to disprove. We know this truth by divine revelation, and accept it by supernatural faith; we take it upon the authority of God himself.… By aid of the light of glory the soul in heaven sees God himself clearly and truly.

And so we accept our human limitation and believe, putting our trust in the words of St. Paul that we shall understand fully when we see God face to face:

1 Corinthians 13:11-12

When I was a child, I spoke like a child,
I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child;
when I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
For now we see in a mirror dimly,
but then face to face.
Now I know in part;
then I shall understand fully,
even as I have been fully understood.

(2) Luke 3’s account also speaks to the importance that Jesus holds for Baptism. Though a sacrament meant for sinful humanity, the sinless Son of God chose to be baptized before He began His public ministry.

These are St. Paul’s words on Baptism:

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” -Romans 6:3-4

But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” -1 Corinthians 6:11

“For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” -Galatians 3:27

Baptism purifies and sanctifies (makes holy) the person, making him/her a dwelling of the Holy Spirit. That means that without Baptism, a person is without the Holy Spirit and rendered defenseless against the evil one.

I don’t know what other Christian denominations believe about baptism, but in the Catholic Church — notwithstanding its many flaws, including the terrible sins committed by its clergy — the sacrament of Baptism is an act of exorcism:

Since Baptism signifies liberation from sin and from its instigator the devil, one or more exorcisms are pronounced over the candidate. The celebrant then anoints him with the oil of catechumens, or lays his hands on him, and he explicitly renounces Satan. (#1237 of Catechism of the Catholic Church)

In this manner, through the exorcizing sacrament of Baptism, “all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin. In those who have been reborn nothing remains that would impede their entry into the Kingdom of God, neither Adam’s sin, nor personal sin, nor the consequences of sin, the gravest of which is separation from God.”

Moreover, through Baptism we receive the gift of grace from the Holy Trinity — to believe in God, to love Him, and to grow in goodness. In other words, the whole organism of the Christian’s supernatural life has its roots in Baptism.

So if you are a Christian, don’t make the mistake of postponing the baptism of your child(ren) like a friend of mine who, although he is a non-denomination Protestant and thinks of himself as quite devout, married a shallow woman with no religious beliefs. He spoke of the marriage as a mistake. They produced a daughter, now 30 years old with degrees in art and animation, and still living with her parents. My friend neither had his daughter baptized nor brought her to church services. When I asked him why, he said he wanted to leave it up to her to decide for herself when she’s an adult.

But in so doing, my friend rendered his daughter defenseless against the rampant dark forces of popular culture. Evidence of that contamination includes disturbing images she drew and posted to Instagram, including that of a goat’s head (or Baphomet) that she named “Menace of the goat king”, and a drawing for her business card of a demonic girl (herself) with two skulls.

Baptism — clothing your child “with Christ” — is the most important thing you can and will ever do for your child.

May the peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you,

~E

 

Sunday Devotional: ‘This I command you: love one another’

John 15:9-10, 12-14, 16-17

Jesus said to his disciples:
“As the Father loves me,
so I also love you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments,
you will remain in my love….
This is my commandment:
love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you….
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you: love one another.

In our corrupt times, the word “love” is used to justify any or all deeds, even the most perverse. Pedophilia is called “man-boy love”; bestiality is called “zoophilia” — love of animals; incest is given a veneer of faux science by calling it “genetic sexual attraction”.

“Love” has become a synonym of “Do as you will”.

So what is love?

Here are some clues from Holy Scripture.

(1) Love is selfless and self-sacrificing

1 John 4:7-10

Beloved, let us love one another,
because love is of God;
everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.
Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.
In this way the love of God was revealed to us:
God sent his only Son into the world
so that we might have life through him.
In this is love:
not that we have loved God, but that he loved us
and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.

Few of us will be called to die for someone else, but many have and do sacrifice for others: parents for their children; adult children for their elderly parents; care-givers for the elderly and sick; all who give their money, time and labor for another or a good cause, with no benefit to themselves.

So this is one measure of love: How much will you sacrifice for another?

(2) Other attributes of love

From the famous passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Love is patient, love is kind.
It is not jealous, is not pompous,
it is not inflated, it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered,
it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing
but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.

(3) The way to God is through the heart, not the mind

Reading St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, I was struck by the rest of the passage:

1 Corinthians 13:8-13

Love never fails.
If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing;
if tongues, they will cease;
if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.
For we know partially and we prophesy partially,
but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
When I was a child, I used to talk as a child,
think as a child, reason as a child;
when I became a man, I put aside childish things.
At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror,
but then face to face.
At present I know partially;
then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.
So faith, hope, love remain, these three;
but the greatest of these is love.

I understand the above passage as St. Paul’s reminder to us that, in the end, the way to God cannot be accomplished through our mind alone — our efforts to know and understand God, the unimaginably awesome being who created the Universe. In St. Paul’s words, “for we know partially”. How can the created ever fully know the Creator?

The great St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), the philosopher-theologian who wrote tomes of impeccable logic and reasoning, but lived only to the young age of 49, knew well the limits of human intelligence and how “partially” we know.

On December 6, 1273, St. Thomas had a mystical experience while he was celebrating Mass, after which he abandoned his scholarly routine and refused to write again. When his friend and fellow theologian, Reginald of Piperno, begged him to get back to work, St. Thomas replied:

“Reginald, I cannot, because all that I have written seems like straw to me (mihi videtur ut palea).

Three months later, on March 7, 1274, St. Thomas passed, leaving the Summa Theologica uncompleted.

There’s a reason why the Greatest Commandment of all begins not with our minds, but with our hearts.

May the love and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you,

~E

 

Sunday Devotional: Lent, the Fall and the Incarnation

Mark 1:12-15

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, 
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.

After John had been arrested, 
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Today is the first Sunday of Lent, a season observed by Christians in imitation of Jesus who prepared Himself for His public ministry in 40 days in the desert.

During Lent, we fast and pray to prepare for Holy Week — the week that culminated in Our Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection.

We are told that the incarnation and crucifixion of the Second Person of the Triune Godhead were because of the fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve.

That fall is a mystery wrapped in a conundrum for, having everything in that bucolic first garden, including and especially the unimaginably sublime gift of seeing and conversing with the Creator (Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day” –Genesis 3:8), they still chose disobedience and betrayal.

All because of their sin of grandiose narcissism — of wanting to be “like gods,” so as to determine for themselves “what is good and what is evil” although Adam and Eve already knew right from wrong. As the Book of Jeremiah 31:33 says, when God created humans, He placed His law within each of us, written in our very hearts:

[D]eclares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

But our first parents wanted to be their own gods, that is, with their own notions of right and wrong, which is nothing other than a contravention of the First Commandment (“You shall have no other gods before me.” –Exodus 20:3). Another way to say “wanting to be their own gods” is “Do as thou wilt” — the motto of satanist Aleister Crowley and the church of Satan, and the zeitgeist of our corrupt time.

That first sin by our first parents was so cataclysmic that it fundamentally changed the natural order of the world.

A door was opened to chaos: henceforth a price must be paid for being human. Where once was joy and ease, there would be banishment, toil, pain, hardship, sickness, disease, and eventual death (with painful labor you will give birth to children; “by the sweat of your brow”; for dust you are and to dust you will return”). Humankind’s relation with other creatures and the physical environment turned askew as “visible creation has become alien and hostile to man”.

So cataclysmic is the breach that human nature itself became perverted. Henceforth, all of Adam’s progeny would be born with the stain of Original Sin — tinder for sin (fomes peccati) with an inclination to evil. As St. Anselm lamented:¹

I fell before my mother conceived me. Truly, in darkness I was conceived, and in the cover of darkness I was born. Truly, in him we all fell, in whom we all sinned. In him we all lost.

Wrongs require restitution.

The dictionary defines “restitution” as reparation made by giving an equivalent as compensation for loss, damage, or injury caused; indemnification.

So immense was our first parents’ Fall that no man could make amends. Only God Himself, in the person of the Son, could make restitution — by becoming incarnate, only to be tortured, to suffer, and to die on a cross.

That also is a mystery.

Why must it take God Himself to become incarnate in mortal flesh, so as to be tortured and executed in the cruelest method reserved by the Roman Empire for the worst criminals?

This is the answer from the great theologian, St. Thomas Aquinas:²

No mere man could have made satisfaction for the whole race. Yet man owed the debt that had to be paid. Only God could pay the debt, and God did not owe it. Hence it was magnificently right that the payer of the debt, the Redeemer, should be both God and man….

The Incarnation was necessary for man’s salvation. It was not absolutely necessary, for God is almighty, and he could have restored fallen man in other ways. But it was relatively necessary, that is, necessary in relation to the need of bringing redemption to man in the most noble, effective, and admirable way.

How? St. Thomas explains, by:

  1. Being a role model, showing man “the perfect example for good works” and, in so doing, advances man in virtue, enlivens his faith, strengthens his hope, and enkindles his charity. In other words, Jesus shows us how we can become better people, how we can be holy. As St. Augustine said, “God was made man that man might be made God.”
  2. Teaching humankind about evil: “The Incarnation keeps man from evil; …makes him despise the devil; …makes him understand the degrading effect of sin; teaches him to look humbly to Christ and not to be presumptuous; instructs him in the heartening truth that the satisfaction made by God Incarnate releases him from slavery to sin.”

In remembrance of how Christ our Lord was tortured, suffered, and died for our sins, we are asked to make small sacrifices during Lent via:

  • Abstinence: Refrain from eating meat on the Fridays of Lent for all age 14 and older. Why Friday? – because Jesus died for our sins on (Good) Friday.
  • Fasting: Eating one full meal and two small meals for age 18 through age 59, exempting the elderly and those with special dietary needs or medical conditions that require a greater or more regular food intake.
  • Surrender something that gives us pleasure, and/or do something good that we don’t ordinarily do.

Most of all, thank Jesus and tell Him that you love Him with your whole heart, your whole soul, your whole mind, and with all your strength.

May the love and peace of Jesus Christ our Lord be with you,

~E

Footnotes:

¹St. Anselm: Basic Writings, translated by S. N. Deane (La Salle, Illinois: Open Court, 1961), p. 24.
²Msgr. Paul J. Glenn, A Tour of the Summa (TAN Books, 1978), p. 311.