Wednesday, February 29, 2012

St. Thomas Aquinas Meditations on Lent #9

The Sower went out to sow his seed. Luke 8:4.
1. The keenness of the sower. It is Christ who goes forth, and in three ways. He goes from the bosom of the Father, and yet without a change of place; from Jewry to the Gentiles ; fromthe private depths of wisdom to the public life of teaching. It is Christ who sows. Now the seed is the source ot fruit. Whence every good action is clue to God. What is it that He sows ? His own seed, says the gospel. That seed is the Word of God. And what does it produce ? It produces others, like unto Him from whom itself proceeds, for it makes them sons of God.
2. The obstacle in the way of the seed. The obstacle is threefold, because for the growth of the seed three conditions are necessary, namely it must be remembered, it must take root in love, it must have loving care. The growth is therefore hindered if in place of the first condition there is flightiness of mind, instead of the second there is hardness of heart, and if, in place of the loving care, there is a development of vices.
(a) Some fell by the wayside. As the way is free for all who care to walk, so does the heart lie open to every chance thought. So it is that when the word of God falls upon a heart that is careless and vain, it falls by the wayside and is doubly imperiled. St. Matthew speaks of one danger only, that the birds of the air came and ate it up. St. Luke speaks of two, for the seed is trampled into the ground as well as carried off by the birds. So when the careless receive the word of God it is crushed by their worthless thoughts or their evil company. Whence great joy for the devil if only he can steal away this seed and trample upon it.
(b) Hardness of heart. This is contrary to charity, for it is in the nature of love to melt things. Hardness means locked up in itself narrowed within its own limits; and love, since it causes the lover to be moved to what he loves, is a thing that liberates, widens, pours itself out. St. Matthew says therefore, some fell upon stony ground, and Ezechiel, I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh (Ezech. 37:26). For there are some men whose hearts are so deprived of love of any kind that they are scarcely flesh and blood at all. There are others who have indeed a natural affection but it is slight and has no deepness. To have deepness is to have a power of loving deeply. The man may be said to love deeply who loves all things and whatever he loves for the love of God, and who puts the love of God before all else. There is another type of man that does indeed delight in God, but delights more in things. Men of this sort do not pour themselves out, nor have they much deepness of earth. The gospel continues, And they spring up immediately for they who think deeply, think long, but they whose thought is shallow plunge into action at once, and inevitably pass away quickly. So these men hear quickly, but take no root in what they hear, for they have no deepness of earth, that is in the earth of loving charity.
(c) Destruction of the fruit. The fruit is lost because when there arises tribulation each man snatches for what he most loves, and the man who loves wealth looks only to his riches. And when the sun was up they were scorched, that is, because they lacked strength. And because they had not root, they withered away, for God was not their root. Others fell among thorns, anxieties, quarrels and such like things. And the thorns grew up and choked them. (In Matthew 13)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

St. Thomas Aquinas Meditations on Lent #8

Be not conformed to this world, but be reformed in the newness of your mind, that you may prove what is the good, and the acceptable, and the perfect will of God. Romans 12: 2.
1. What is forbidden is the forming of one self after the pattern of the world. Be not conformed to this world, that is, to the things which pass away with time. For this present world is a kind ofmeasure of those tilings which pass away with time. A man forms himself after the pattern of things transitory when, willingly and lovingly, he gives himself to serve them. Those also form themselves after that pattern who imitate the lives of the worldly, This then I say and testify in the Lord : That henceforward you walk not as also the Gentiles walk in the vanity of their mind (Ephesians4: 17).

2. We are bidden to undertake a reformation of the interior man when it is said, But be reformed in the newness of your mind. By mind is here meant the reason, considered as the faculty by which man makes judgments about what he ought to do. In man, as God first created him, this faculty existed in all the completeness and vigor it could need. Holy Scripture tells us of our first parents that God filled their hearts with wisdom and showed them both good and evil (Ecclesiastics.17:6). But through sin this faculty declined in power and, as it were, grew old, losing its beauty and its brilliance. The Apostle warns us to form ourselves again, that is, to recover that completeness and distinction of mind that once was ours. This can indeed be regained by the grace of the Holy Ghost, and we should therefore use every endeavor to share in that grace those who lack that grace that they may obtain it, and those who already have gained it faithfully to progress and persevere. Be renewed in the spirit of your mind, says St. Paul (Ephesians 4:23). Or again, in another sense, be renewed in your external actions, that is to say, in the newness of your mind i.e., according to the new thing, grace, which you have internally received.
3. The reason for this warning is that you may prove what is the will of God. We know what befalls a man whose sense of taste suffers in an illness, how he ceases to have a true judgment of flavors and begins to loathe pleasantly-tasting things and to crave for what is loathsome. So it is with the man whose inclinations are corrupted from his conforming himself to the things of this world. He has no longer a true judgment where what is good for him is concerned. It is only the man whose inclinations are healthy and well directed, whose mind is made new again by grace, who can truly judge what is good and what is not. Therefore on this account is it written, Be not conformed to this world, but be reformed in the newness of your mind that you may prove, that is, that you may know by experience. As again it says in the psalm, Taste and see that the Lord is sweet (Psalm32:9). What is the will of God: that is, to say the will by which he wills us to be saved. This is the will of God your sanctification (1 Thessolonians4:3). The will of God is good, because God wills that we should will to do what is good, and He leads us to this through His commandments. I will show thee, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of thee (Micah 6: 8). The will of God is agreeable in as much as to him who is rightly ordered it is a pleasure to do what God wills us to do. Nor is the will of God merely useful as a means to achieve our destiny, it is a link joining us with our destiny and in that respect it is perfect. Such then is the will of God as those experience it who are not formed after the pattern of this world, but are formed over again in the newness of their minds. As to those who remain in the old staleness, fashioned after the world, they judge the will of God not to be a good but a burden and useless. (In Romans 17)


Monday, February 27, 2012

St. Thomas Aquinas Meditations on Lent #7

Wherefore he that thinks himself to stand, let him take heed lest he fall. 1 Corinthians 12:1.
1.The case of the Jews who, in punishment, were overthrown in the desert (ibid verse 5)is a warning for us. These words of the Scripture contain four things which should attract the wise man’s attention, namely the multitude of those who fell, for it says Wherefore ; then the uncertainty of those who still stand, for it adds he that thinks himself to stand and thirdly, the need for caution, for it adds let him take heed and finally the ease with which disaster comes, for it says lest he fall. St. Paul says wherefore as if to say these men, for all that they have had the advantage of God’s gifts, nevertheless, because of their sins, perished, wherefore, bearing this in mind, he that thinks himself, by whatever kind of subtle reasoning, to stand, that is, to be in a state of grace and charity, let him take heed, diligently attending to it, lest he fall, whether by sinning himself or by inducing others to sin. How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer says Isaiah (24:12), and the Psalmist, A thousand shall fall at thy side (Psalm90:7), and St. Paul himself, in another place, says therefore, See how you walk, circumspectly (Ephesians 5:15).
2. We must note that the things which drive us to a fall are numerous.
(a) Weakness, lack of strength ; as children, the aged and the sick fall in the natural life. AsIsaiah says, They shall fall through infirmity (Isaiah. 40:30). This happens to us through lukewarmness in well doing and through too frequent changing.
(b) We fall under the weight of our sins, as asses fall under a load that is too heavy. The workers of iniquity have fallen (Psalms 35:13). And this happens through our neglect to repent.
(c) Through a multitude of things drawing us, as a tree or a house falls over on the crowd that tugs at it. We fall in this way by the on rush of enemies.
(d) The slipperiness of the road, and so we fall as travelers fall into the mud. Take heed lest thou slip with thy tongue and fall (Ecclesiastics. 28:30). We fall thus through carelessness in guarding our senses.
(e) A variety of traps and we fall like the bird taken in the nets. A just man shall fall seven times (Proverbs24:16). And this happens through the corruption of created things.
(f) Ignorance of what one ought to do, and we fall easily as do the blind. If the blind lead the blind, both fall into the pit (Matthew 15:14). This comes about through our not learning things necessary to us.
(g) The example of others who fall, as the angels fell by the example of Lucifer. A justman falling down before the wicked, is as a fountain troubled by the foot, a spring that has suffered defilement (Proverbs24:26). And this happens when we imitate the wicked.
(h) The heaviness of the flesh : for the body when corrupted weighs down the soul, as does a stone that hangs at the neck of a swimmer. A mountain in falling cometh to naught (Job 14: 18). And this is what comes of pampering the body. (In 1 Corinthians 10.)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

St. Thomas Aquinas Meditations on Lent #6

Every man shall receive his own reward, according to his own labor. 1Corinthinians 3:8.

1. This reward is at once common to all men and particular to each.

(a) It is common to all because that which all shall see and all enjoy is the same, that is to say
God, Then shalt thou abound in delights in the almighty (Job 22:26). In that day the Lord of hosts
shall be a crown of glory, and a garland of joy to the residue of his people (Isaiah 27:5). And therefore St. Matthew says (20: 9) that to every laborer in the vineyard there is given one penny.
(b) The reward is yet special for each individual. One man shall see more clearly than another, and shall enjoy more fully, according to the measure allotted him. Hence the words in St. John (14:2), In my father s house there are many mansions for which reason too, it was said, Everyone shall receive his own reward. St. Paul shows how the extent of each one’s reward will be measured when he says, according to his own labor. Not that by this is meant an equality as between the amount of labor and the amount of the reward, for as it is said in 2 Corinthians 4:17, That which is at present momentary and light of our tribulation, works for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory. The equality promised is the equality of proportion, an equality such that, where there has been greater labor there will be greater reward.
2. The labor can be considered as greater in three ways:
(1) According to the degree of love that inspires it. It is to this indeed that the essence
of the reward the vision and enjoyment of God makes a return. St. John (12:21) says, He that loves me, shall be loved of my Father : and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Whence it follows that he who labors with greater love, even though the labor entailed is less, will receive more of the essential reward.
(2) According to the kind of work it is. As in human enterprises the greater rewards go to those whose labor is itself of a more noble character (for example, the architect, though he labors less with his body, receives more than the manual worker), so it is in spiritual matters. He who is engaged in a work itself more noble, even though it be that he has labored less with his body, will receive a greater reward at any rate as far as some accidental privilege of glory. Thus there is a special splendor reserved for those who teach, for the virgins and for the martyrs.
(3) According to the amount of work done and this can be understood in two ways. Some times it is the actual larger amount of work which merits the larger reward. This is especially true in what concerns remission of punishment; the longer one fasts, for example, or the more distant the place of one’s pilgrimage, the greater the remission merited. So too, there is a greater joy from the greater amount of work done. Sometimes however, the labor is greater from lack of will to do the work, for the things we do willingly are less laborious in the doing. And in such cases the amount of the labor does not increase the reward. Rather does it reduce thereward. As Isaiah says (19:31), They shall take wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint, and in the preceding verse warning us, youths shall faint-, and labor, and young men shall fall by infirmity. (In 1 Corinthians 3.)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

St. Thomas Aquinas Meditations for Lent #5

If any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stoves, wood, hay, stubble, every man’s work shall be manifest. 1 Corinthians 3: 12-13.
1. The works that man relies on in matters spiritual and divine are compared to gold, silver and precious stones, things substantial, brilliant and precious, yet they are compared in such a way that gold symbolizes those things by which man tends to God Himself by contemplation and love. I counsel thee to buy of me gold fire-tried (Revelation 3:18), that is, wisdom with charity. Bysilver are meant those acts by which man clings to the spiritual realities he must believe, love and contemplate. So it is that silver is interpreted as referring to love of one’s neighbor. By precious stones is to be understood the work of the different virtues with which man’s soul is decked.
Those human activities, on the other hand, by means of which man acquires material goods, are compared to stubble, or chaff, worthless rubbish, glittering and easily burnt. There are however grades in this rubbish, some things being more stable than others, some things more easily consumed than the rest. Men themselves, for example, are more worthy than other carnal things, and, by succession, humanity escapes destruction. Men are hence compared to wood. Man’s flesh however is easily corrupted, by sickness and by death, whence it is compared to hay. All things which make for the glory of such a being speedily come to naught, whence they are compared to chaff or stubble.
To build with gold, silver and precious stones is therefore to build, upon the foundation of faith, something related to the contemplation of the wisdom of divine things, to try love of God, to following of the saints, to the service of one’s neighbor and to the exercise of virtues. To build with wood, hay and chaff is to build according to plans that are no more than human, for the convenience of the body, and for outward show.
2. That men occupy themselves with purely human things may come about in three ways :
(1) They may place the whole ultimate purpose of their life in the satisfaction of bodily needs.
Now to do this is a mortal sin, and therefore in this way a man does not so much build as destroy the foundation, and lay another of a different kind. For the end or ultimate purpose is the foundation in all that relates to desires.
(2) They may in using purely corporal things have nothing else in view but the glory of God.
In this case they are not building with wood, hay and chaff, but with gold, silver and precious stones.
(3) Although they do not place in purely corporal things the ultimate purpose of life, nor because of them will to act against God, they are more influenced by these things than they ought to be. The result is that they are thereby held back somewhat from a care for the things that are God s, and thus they sin venially. And it is this which is really meant by the phrase about building with wood, hay, and chaff, because activities that relate merely to the care of earthly goods have about them something of a venial fault, since they provoke a love of earthly things that is greater than it should be. It is in fact this love which, according to the degree of its tenacity, is compared to wood, to hay and to chaff. (In 1 Corinthians 3)

St. Thomas Aquinas Meditations for Lent #4

1. And going a little further He fell upon his face, praying and saying : My Father. (Matthew 27:39)
Our Lord here recommends to us three conditions to be observed when we pray.
(1) Solitude: because going a little further he separated himself even from those whom he had chosen. When thou shalt pray enter into thy chamber and having shut the door pray to thy Father in secret (Matthew6:6). But notice he went not far away but a little, that He might show that he is not far from those who call upon Him, and also that they might sec him praying and learn to pray in like fashion.
(2) Humility: He fell upon his face, giving there by an example of humility. This because humility is necessary for prayer and because Peter had said : Yea, though I should die with thee, I mil not deny thee (Matthew 26:35). Therefore did Our Lord fall, to show us we should not trust in our own strength.
(3) Devotion: when He said My Father. It is essential that when we pray we pray from devotion. He says My Father because He is uniquely God’s Son; we are God’s children by adoption only. (In Matthew 26:2.)
If it be possible let this chalice pass from me. Nevertheless not as I will but as Thou wilt (Matthew26:39).
Here we consider the tenor of prayer. Christ was praying according to the prompting of his sense nature, in so far, that is, as his prayer, as advocate for his senses, was expressing the inclinations of his senses, proposing to God, by prayer, what the desire of his senses suggested.
And He did this that He might teach us three things :
(1) That he had taken a true human nature with all its natural inclinations.
(2) That it is lawful for man to will, according to his natural inclination, a thing which God does not will.
(3) That man ought to subject his own inclination to the divine will.
Whence St. Augustine says: Christ, living as a man, showed a certain private human willingness when he said, Let this chalice pass from me. This was human willingness, a man’s own will and, so to say, his private desire. But Christ, since He wills to be a man of right heart, a man directed to God, adds, never the less, not as I will but as thou wilt.
And in this he teaches by example how we should arrange our inclinations so that they do not come into conflict with the divine rule. Whence we learn that there is nothing wrong in our shrinking from what is naturally grievous, so long as we bring our emotion into line with the divine will. Christ had two wills, one from his Father in so far as he was God and the other in so far as he was man. This human will he submitted in all things to his Father, giving us in this an example to do likewise, I came down from heaven, not to do my will, for the will of him that sent me (John 6:.38). (In Matthew 26.)

St. Thomas Aquinas Meditations for Lent #3

In doing good let us not fail. For in due time we shall reap, not failing. Galatians 11: 9.
In these words .St. Paul does three things:
1. He warns us that we must do good. For to do good is a duty seeing that all things, by their nature, teach us to do good. (a) They so teach us because they are themselves good. And God all the things that he hadmade, and they were very good (Gen. 1:. 31). Sinners have ample cause to make them blush in themultitude of created things all of them good, while sinners themselves are evil.
(b) Because all things, by their nature, do good. For every creature gives itself, and thisis a sign of their own goodness and of the goodness of their Creator. God is goodness,something which must diffuse itself St Augustine says, It is a great sign of the divine goodness, that every creature is compelled to give itself
(c) Because all things by their nature desire what is good and tend to the good. The good is,in fact, that for which everything longs.
2. St. Paul warns us, that in doing good we fail not.
There are three things which most of all cause a man to persevere in doing good:
(a) Assiduous and wholehearted prayer for help from God lest we yield when we are tempted,Watch ye, and pray that ye enter not into temptation (Matthew 26: 41).
(b) Unceasing fearfulness. As soon as a man feels confident he is safe, he begins to fail in doing good, Unless thou hold thyself diligently in the fear of the Lord, thy house shall quickly be overthrown (Sirach 27: 4). Fear of the Lord is the guardian of Life; without it speedily indeed and suddenly the house thrown down, that is to say, a dwelling place that is of this world.
(c) Avoidance of venial sins, for venial sins are the occasion of mortal sin and often undermine the achievement of good works. St. Augustine says, Thou hast avoided dangers that are great, beware lest thou fall victim to the sand
3. St. Paul offers a reward that is fitting, is generous and is everlasting. For in due time weshall reap not failing. Fitting : in due time, that is, at a fitting time, at the day of judgment when each shall receive what he has accomplished. So the farmer receives the fruit of his sowing, not immediately but in due time, The husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth; patiently bearing till he receive the early and the latter rain (James 5: 7). Generous: We shall reap ; here it is the copiousness of the reward that is indicated. With the harvest and reaping we associate abundance, He who soweth in blessings, shall also reap blessings (2 Cor.9: 6). Your reward is very great in heaven (Matt, 5: 12) Everlasting : We shall reap, not failing. We ought then to do good not for an hour merely, but always and continually. In doing good let us not fail, that is to say, let us not fail in working, forwe shall not fail in reaping. Whatsoever thy hand is able to do, do it earnestly (Sirach 9: 10). Andright it is not to fail in working, for the reward to which we are looking is everlasting and unfailing.

St. Thomas Aquinas Meditations for Lent #2

Going out about the third hour, he saw others standing in the market-place idle. And he said to them: Go you also into my vineyard and I will give you what shall be just. Matthew 20:3.
In these words we may notice four things:
3. The necessity of working in the vineyard of the Lord. Go you also into my vineyard. The vineyard into which the men are sent to work is the life of goodness, in which there are as many trees as there are virtues. We are to work in this vineyard in five ways : Planting in it good works and virtues ; rooting up and destroying the thorns, that is, our vices ; cutting down the superfluous branches, Every branch in me, that beareth fruit, he will purge it, that it may bring forth more fruit (John xv. 2) ; keeping off the little foxes, that is, the devils ; and guarding it from the thieves, that is, keeping ourselves indifferent to the praise and the blame of mankind.
4. The usefulness of labour. The wage of those who labour in the vineyard is a penny that outvalues thousands of silver crowns. And this is what we are told in Holy Scripture, The peaceable had a vineyard, every man bringeth for the fruit thereof a thousandpieces of silver (Cant. viii. 1 1). The thousand crowns are the thousand joys of eternity, and these are signified by the penny.

St. Thomas Aquinas Meditations for Lent

Going out about the third hour, he saw others standing in the market-place idle. And he said to them: Go you also into my vineyard, and I will give you what shall be just. Matthew 20:3
In these words we may notice four things:
1. The goodness of the Lord, going out, that is, for his people s salvation. For that Christ should go out to lead men into the vineyard of justice was indeed an act of infinite goodness. Our Lord is five times said to have gone out. He went out in the beginning of the world, as a sower, to sow his creatures, The sower went out to sow his seed. Then in his nativity to enlighten the world, Until her just one come forth as brightness (Isaiah 42:1). In his Passion to save his own from the power of the devil and from all evil, My just one is near at hand, my savior is gone forth (Isa. li. 5). He goes out like the father of a family, caring for his children and his goods. The kingdom of heaven is like to an householder\ who went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard (Matt. xx. i.). Finally he goes out to judgment, to make most strict enquiry after the wicked, like some overseer, to beat down rebels, like some mighty fighter, and, like a judge, to punish as they merit, criminals and malefactors.
2. The foolishness of men. For nothing is more foolish than that in this present life, where men ought so to work that they may live eternally, men should live in idleness. He found them in the market place idle. That market-place is this, our present life. For it is in the market-place that men quarrel and buy and sell and so the market-places stands for our life of every day, full of affairs, of buying and selling and in which also the prospects of grace and heavenly glory are sold in exchange for good works. These laborers were called idle because they had already let slip a part of their life. And not evil-doers alone are called idle but also those who do not do good. And as the idle never attain their end, so will it be with these. The end of man is life eternal. He therefore who works in the proper way will possess that life if he is not an idler. It is great folly to live in idleness in this life; because from idleness, as from an evil teacher, we learn evil knowledge; because through idleness we come to lose the good that lasts forever; because through the short idleness of this life we incur a labor that is eternal.