28 January, Friday — What do we know?

28 Jan – Memorial for St. Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor of the Church

St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) was the son of the Count of Aquino. He was born in the family castle in Lombardy near Naples, Italy. He was educated by Benedictine monks at Monte Cassino, and at the University of Naples. He secretly joined the mendicant Dominican friars in 1244. His family kidnapped and imprisoned him for a year to keep him out of sight and deprogram him, but they failed to sway him, and he rejoined his order in 1245.

He studied in Paris, France, from 1245 to 1248 under St. Albert the Great, then accompanied Albertus to Cologne, Germany. He was ordained in 1250, then returned to Paris to teach. He taught theology at the University of Paris. He wrote defenses of the mendicant orders, commentaries on Aristotle and Lombard’s Sentences, and some bible-related works, usually by dictating to secretaries. He won his doctorate, and taught at several Italian cities. He was recalled by the king and the University of Paris in 1269, then recalled to Naples in 1272 where he was appointed regent of studies while working on the Summa Theologica.

On 6 December 1273, he experienced a divine revelation which so enraptured him that he abandoned the Summa, saying that it and his other writing were so much straw in the wind compared to the reality of the divine glory. He died four months later while en route to the Council of Lyons, overweight and with his health broken by overwork.

His works have been seminal to the thinking of the Church ever since. They systematized her great thoughts and teaching, and combined Greek wisdom and scholarship methods with the truth of Christianity. Pope Leo VIII commanded that his teachings be studied by all theology students. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1567.

  • Patron Saint Index

2 Sam 11:1-4,5-10,13-17
Mk 4:26-34

“…how, he does not know.”

Those of us who are involved in any sort of planning would appreciate that while there are things we know for certain, because of past experiences or gained knowledge, there are also things we know that we do not know (and therefore need to be learned). But what about the things we don’t know that we truly ‘don’t know’?

I apologise if I’ve gotten you in a tizzy so early in your day. But you know where I am coming from…or do you?

Brothers and sisters, in our search for God, or to gain knowledge in order to show that we know enough about God, have we actually stopped to take a step back and ask ourselves — can we ever truly begin to fathom what God knows? About us, about him/her, about the colleague who gets under our skin, about the boss who keeps belittling others? What about the security guard standing in the rain dealing with the irate driver? Or the woman in the pew with hunched shoulders, looking as if the weight of the world is upon her?

At one point or another in our lives, we have encountered the ‘know-it-all’ — the person who knows this/that VIP, the person who ‘pooh-poohs’ everything you say because he/she knows better/more/different. I sometimes sit back and marvel (not with any sarcasm at all, I qualify) at how these people are so confident in their abilities…and when someone else will come along and pooh-pooh them. In some circles, it would require no less than a billionaire, or a scholar of some repute.

My point is this — once we acknowledge that there is no one more knowledgeable than God, then we can choose to ignore all manner of bluster thrown at us, or choose to listen and absorb what is imparted to us. Yes, it can be that straightforward if you think hard about it. But…easier said than done. Many of us labour under a boss who must feel superior at all levels, or a leader who will not hear any other opinion except for theirs or those in their ‘inner circle’. And we end up having to pander to their ways of thinking/doing or gritting our teeth and nodding in abject acquiesence.

It is under such circumstances that nothing can grow. When no mustard seed, however well-nurtured, can flourish into a huge tree. When leadership stops listening and expects obedience is when faith is truly tested. And…it can go either way. Those who stay behind will adapt and grow, albeit under the strict conditions imposed by leaders, while those who decide to leave and seek new pastures may either wither (and then come back with tails between their legs) or, truly flourish.    

Brothers and sisters, today’s gospel speaks of growth and the potential of any living thing to flourish, given the right conditions. Our God only wants us to live to our fullest potential and to fulfil His divine plan for our lives. He also gives us the free will to choose the paths we take in order to eventually reach our goal….which we will never know till the very end. So if we find ourselves agonising each day about what God’s plan is for us, let’s take a leaf out of St Thomas Aquinas’ book — stop analysing, start living.   

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Abba Father, you only want what’s best for us. But sometimes, we let ourselves get in the way of your plan. Give us the courage and wisdom to be free of all worry and anxiety so that we can truly live freely and make the choices that only you know we will be making in order to fulfil your plan for us. 

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for giving us the free will to choose our own destinies, and for always giving us chance after chance to come back to you when we falter.

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