Trinity Sunday – C

When we say that the Trinity is a “mystery,” we mean that the Trinity is inexhaustibly deeper than we can ever comprehend. However, “mystery” doesn’t mean that we can’t know anything. The New Testament and the teaching Church and her tradition offer us rich insights about the Trinity.

The great twentieth-century Jesuit theologian, Karl Rahner, reminded us that the fact that the Trinity consists of three Persons is not just a piece of interesting information but information that makes a vital difference in our lives.

We may recognize the unique ways that the three Persons acted during Jesus’ earthly life but we may fail to appreciate that the three Persons act in unique ways in our own lives. Frequently, we pray to or talk about “God” in general. Some may focus on the Father, others on Jesus and others on the Spirit but each Person has a unique role in our lives.

St. Thomas Aquinas attempted to explain the Trinity in a human way, in as much as it is possible. For instance, the Son and the Spirit come forth from the Father but remain one substance with the Father.

We can’t comprehend this but Thomas offers us a human example. We have a thought in our minds. It is our word that comes from us and is united with us. We love our word because it is ours. When we speak our word, we reveal ourselves to others. Others know us though our word. In addition to our word, we have love by which we love others even as the love remains within us.

The Word of God eternally comes forth from the Father and the Father loves the Word. The Father not only brings forth a Word but the Father in loving the Word loves us through His Spirit of Love.

According to St. Thomas, the Father creates each one of us through His Word and through His Love:

God is the cause of things through His mind and will, like an artist of works of art. An artist works through an idea conceived in His mind and through love in His will bent on something. In like manner, God the Father wrought the creature through His Word, the Son, and through His Love, the Holy Spirit.

Thomas explains that our coming forth from the Father reflects the coming forth of the Son and the Spirit. Each one of us comes forth from the Father through His Son, His Word, and through His Spirit, His Love.

In fact, according to Thomas, we not only come forth from the Father through the Son and the Spirit but we go to the Father through the Son and through the Spirit. The very end of our lives reflects our beginning: “Just as we have been created by the Son and the Holy Spirit, so are we united by them to our final end.” In fact, declares Thomas: “The purpose and the fruit of our whole life is the knowledge of the Trinity in unity.”

The Opening Prayer for the Solemnity of Trinity Sunday thanks the Father “for sending us the Word of Truth and the Spirit of Sanctification.” Of course, we mean the historical sending of the Word in His earthly life but the Father also sends the Word of Truth into our lives, even as the Spirit of Love sanctifies us.

The reading from Paul’s Letter to the Romans, (Rom 5:1-5) gives some expression to the actions of the Three Persons in our lives. The reading proclaims: “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have gained access by faith.” Jesus, by His death and Resurrection, unites us to the Father, now. Paul concludes: “The love of God has been poured into our heart through the Holy Spirit that has been given us.” The Father’s gift of the Spirit was not a one-time event but the Father continues to give us His love through the Spirit.

In the Gospel, (Jn 16:12-15) as Jesus prepares the apostles for His departure, by promising them that the Spirit will bring them understanding of what He has taught: “The Spirit if Truth… will lead you to all truth”

Today, Jesus, the Word teaches us and the Spirit moves our hearts to understand what the Son reveals even as the Spirit helps us to love the Son.

When the Scriptures are read, the Father speaks to us through His Word. The Spirit moves our minds to understand what is being showed to us and also moves our hearts to love the Son whom we receive.

You’ll notice that before the priest says the words of consecration at Mass, he extends his hands over the gifts and asks the Father to send His Holy Spirit that the gifts might become the Body and Blood of Christ. After the words of consecration, the priest prays that we may all be united in Christ by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit enables us to love the Son and to love each other as well.

Each day, the Father gives us His Son as our Way to Him and the Father gives us His Spirit that we might perceive and love the Father through the Son.

Denis Vincent Wiseman, O.P.

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Pentecost Sunday – C

The passage of the Letter to the Romans, used on Pentecost Sunday, year C, Romans 8:8-17, begins, “You are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit.” Those who received Paul’s letter may have thought that actually they were living in the flesh.

St. Thomas Aquinas explains: “He is not speaking about the nature of the flesh. For the Romans, to whom he is speaking were mortal men clothed in flesh. Rather he is speaking about the vices of the flesh: ‘Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God’ (1 Cor 15:50)” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Letter to the Romans, 625).

Paul continues: “… if the Spirit of God really dwells in you” (Rom 8:9). Thomas adds, “namely, through love: ‘You are God’ temple, and God’s Spirit dwells in you” (1 Cor 3:16)” (Commentary on Romans, 626).

Paul asserts: “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him” (Rom 8:9).

Thomas comments: “Just as that is not a bodily member which is not enlivened by the body’s spirit, so he is not Christ’s member who does not have the Spirit of Christ: ‘by this we know that we abide in him, because He has given us His own Spirit’ (1 Jn 4:13)” (Commentary on Romans, 627).

Paul affirms: “But if Christ I in you…” Thomas reflects: “Since you belong to Christ, you have the Spirit of Christ and Christ dwelling in you through faith: ‘That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith’ (Eph 3:17). But if Christ is in you, you should be conformed to Christ” (Commentary on Romans, 629).

Thomas explains: “Christ so came into the world that as far as the Spirit was concerned, He was full of grace and truth, but as for the body, He had the likeness of sinful flesh. Hence this should also be in you, that your body indeed because of sin which still remains in your flesh, is dead, i.e. subject to the necessity of death…” (Commentary on Romans, 626).

The spirit lives: “But the spirit lives, being recalled from sin: ‘be renewed in the spirit of your minds’ (Eph 4:23); it lives with the life of grace because of justification, through which it is justified by God: ‘The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God’ (Gal 2:20); ‘the just man lives by faih’ (Rom 1:17).

Paul “shows what we obtain from the Holy Spirit inasmuch as He is the Spirit of the Father, saying the Spirit of Him, namely of God the Father who raised up Jesus Christ from the dead … ‘He who raised up Jesus Christ from the dead shall enliven your own bodies because of the Spirit dwelling in you” (Commentary on Romans, 630).

Thomas asserts that this is “on account of the dignity our bodies have from being receptacles of the Holy Spirit: ‘Do you not know that our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit’ ( 1 Cor 6:19)” (Commentary on Romans, 630).

If you live according to the Spirit, you mortify the deeds of the flesh” (Rom 8:13). Thomas affirms that living by the Spirit “you will live, namely the life of grace in the present and the life of glory in the future” (Commentary on Romans, 633).

“Whoever is led by the Spirit of God“ Thomas comments that a person is “ruled by a leader and director, which the Spirit does in us, inasmuch as He enlightens us inwardly about what we ought to do “let your good spirit lead me” (Ps 143:10) (Commentary on Romans, 635).

Thomas explains: “One who is led does not act on his own, … a spiritual man is not only instructed by the Holy Spirit regarding what he ought to do, but his heart is also moved by the Holy Spirit” (Commentary on Romans, 635).

Thomas asserts: “Those are led who are moved by a higher instinct. Animals do not act but are led, because they are moved to perform their actions by nature and not from their own impulse. Similarly the spiritual man is inclined to do something not as though by a movement of his own chiefly, but by the prompting of the holy Spirit. This does not mean that spiritual men do not act through will and free choice, because the Holy Spirit causes the very movement of the will and free choice in them ‘God is at work in in you both to will and to work’ (Phil 2:13).

Thomas attests: “The holy Spirit produces two effects in us: one is fear: ‘his delight shall be the fear of the Lord’ (Is 11:3); the other is love: ‘God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us (Rom 5:5)” (Commentary on Romans, 638).

Thomas shows that initial fear is fear of punishment and is caused by imperfect love “usually found in men at the beginning of their conversion” but fear set on spiritual things, “fears nothing except separation from God. This is holy fear: ‘The fear of the Lord is holy, enduring forever and ever’ (Ps 19:10)…. Fear produces slavery, so charity’s love produces the freedom of sons. For it makes a man act voluntarily for the honor of God – which is characteristic of sons” (Commentary on Romans, 641).

Paul proclaims: “All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. for you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the spirit of sonship. When we cry ‘Abba” Father! it is the Spirit Himself bearing witness that we are children of God” (Rom 8: 14-16).

Denis Vincent Wiseman, O.P.

References to St. Thomas Aquinas’ Commentary on Romans are taken from the translation begun by Fr. Fabian R. Larcher, O.P. and edited by J. Mortensen and E. Alarcón. The translation was published by the Aquinas Institute for the Study of Sacred Doctrine, Lander, Wyoming, in 2012.

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Ascension – C

Did Jesus have joy when He returned to the Father with His glorified humanity? St. Thomas Aquinas thinks He did: “He had a certain kind of joy from such fittingness, not indeed that He began to derive joy from it when He ascended into heaven but that He rejoiced in a new way, as at a thing completed” (3a. 57, 1, ad 2).

We might rejoice with Jesus in His victory but aren’t we deprived of joy in His departure? Thomas explains that Jesus has ascended but He still remains with us:
“Although Christ’s bodily presence was withdrawn from the faithful by the Ascension, still the presence of His Godhead is ever with the faithful, as He Himself says (‘Behold, I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world’ (Mt. 28:20).

Thomas recalls the words of Pope St. Leo, ‘by ascending into heaven He did not abandon those whom He adopted’ (De Resurrec., Serm. ii).

Actually, Thomas insists that we benefit more by Jesus’ Ascension: “Christ’s Ascension into heaven, whereby He withdrew His bodily presence from us, was more profitable for us than His bodily presence would have been” (3a. 57, 1, ad 3).

How could that be? Thomas responds: “First of all, in order to increase our faith, which is of things unseen: ‘For ‘blessed are they that see not, yet believe’” (3a. 57, 1, ad 3).

Thomas believes that Jesus’ Ascension gives us hope: “Secondly, to uplift our hope: hence He says ‘If I shall go, and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will take you to Myself; that where I am, you also may be’ (Jn. 14:3). For by placing in heaven the human nature which He assumed, Christ gave us the hope of going there” (3a. 57, 1, ad 3).

In addition, the Ascension increases our charity: “Thirdly, in order to direct the fervor of our charity to heavenly things. Hence the Apostle says: ‘Seek the things that are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. Mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth’ (Col. 3:1,2): for as is said, ‘Where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also’ (Mt. 6:21)” (3a. 57, 1, ad 3).

When Jesus ascended the Holy Spirit was given us to increase our love: “And since the Holy Spirit is love drawing us up to heavenly things, therefore our Lord said to His disciples (Jn. 16:7): ‘It is expedient to you that I go; for if I go not, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.’ (3a. 57, 1, ad 3).

Thomas recalls that Augustine had said (Tract on John. xciv): “You cannot receive the Spirit, so long as you persist in knowing Christ according to the flesh. But when Christ withdrew in body, not only the Holy Spirit, but both Father and Son were present with them spiritually” (3a. 57, 1, ad 3).

Thomas teaches that Christ’s Ascension is the cause of our salvation: “On our part, in so far as by the Ascension our souls are uplifted to Him; because, as stated above, His Ascension fosters, first, faith; secondly, hope; thirdly, charity. Fourthly, our reverence for Him is thereby increased, since we no longer deem Him an earthly man, but the God of heaven; thus the Apostle says: ‘If we have known Christ according to the flesh but now we know Him so no longer’ (2 Cor. 5:16)” (3a. 57, 6).

Jesus’ acted for our salvation: “On His part, in regard to those things which, in ascending, He did for our salvation. First, He prepared the way for our ascent into heaven, according to His own saying: ‘I go to prepare a place for you,’ (Jn. 14:2). For since He is our Head the members must follow whither the Head has gone: hence He said: ‘That where I am, you also may be’ (Jn. 14:3)” (3a. 57, 6).

Just as the high priest of the Old Testament stood before God for the people, “So also Christ entered heaven ‘to make intercession for us,’ as is said in Heb. 7:25. Because the very showing of Himself in the human nature which He took with Him to heaven is a pleading for us. So that for the very reason that God so exalted human nature in Christ, He may take pity on them for whom the Son of God took human nature. Thirdly, that being established in His heavenly seat as God and Lord, He might send down gifts upon men, according to Eph. 4:10: “He ascended above all the heavens, that He might fill all things,” that is, “with His gifts” (3a. 57, 6).

Thomas asserts that Jesus’ Ascension is the cause of our ascending to heaven: “Christ’s Passion is the cause of our ascending to heaven, properly speaking, by removing the hindrance which is sin, and also by way of merit: whereas Christ’s Ascension is the direct cause of our ascension, as by beginning it in Him who is our Head, with whom the members must be united” (3a. 57, 6).

Christ is our Head and we are members of His body: “Since Christ is our Head, then what was bestowed on Christ is bestowed on us through Him. And on this account, since He is already raised up, the Apostle says that God has, so to speak, ‘raised us up together with Him,’ still we ourselves are not raised up yet, but are to be raised up, according to Rm. 8:11: ‘He who raised up Jesus from the dead, shall quicken also your mortal bodies’: and after the same manner of speech the Apostle adds that “He has made us to sit together with Him, in the heavenly places”; namely, for the very reason that Christ our Head sits there (3a. 58, 4, ad 1).

Denis Vincent Wiseman, O.P.

References to the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas give the part of the Summa, the question and the article. If the passage is found in a response to an objection that Thomas has introduced in the first part of the article, the Latin word “ad,” meaning “to,” is added with the number of the objection.

TP Q[57] A[6] R.O. 3

Reply OBJ 3: Christ by once ascending into heaven acquired for Himself and for us in perpetuity the right and worthiness of a heavenly dwelling-place; which worthiness suffers in no way, if, from some special dispensation, He sometimes comes down in body to earth; either in order to show Himself to the whole world, as at the judgment; or else to show Himself particularly to some individual, e.g. in Paul’s case, as we read in Acts 9. And lest any man may think that Christ was not bodily present when this occurred, the contrary is shown from what the Apostle says in 1 Cor. 14:8, to confirm faith in the Resurrection: “Last of all He was seen also by me, as by one born out of due time”: which vision would not confirm the truth of the Resurrection except he had beheld Christ’s very body.

TP Q[58] A[4] R.O. 1

Sixth Sunday of Easter – C

Today’s Gospel, John 14:23-29 begins: “Anyone who loves me will be true to My Word.” In his Commentary on the Gospel of John, St. Thomas Aquinas says that three things are necessary for a person who wants to see God: “First, one must draw near to God … ‘Those who approach his feet will receive his teaching’ [Deut 33:3]. Secondly, one must lift up his eyes in order to see God: ‘Lift up your eyes on high and see who created these things’ [Is 40:26]. And thirdly, one must take time to look, for spiritual things cannot be seen if one is absorbed by earthly things: ‘Taste and see that the Lord is sweet’ [Ps 34:8]“ (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1941).
Thomas explains that charity accomplishes these things: “Charity joins our soul to God: ‘He who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him’ (1 Jn 4:16). It also makes us look at God: ‘For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also’ (Mt 6:21). As the saying goes: ‘Where your love is, there your eyes are’” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1941).
Charity also frees us from worldly matters: ‘If any one loves the world, perfect love for God is not in him’ [1 Jn 2:15]. “Thus, to turn it about, one who perfectly loves God, does not love the world”(Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1941).
Jesus declared: “Anyone who loves Me will be true to My Word. Thomas comments: ”Obedience follows from charity; and so He says, He will keep My word” Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1941).
St. Gregory said: ‘The proof of love is one’s actions. Love for God is never lazy: if it is present it accomplishes great things; if it refuses to work, it is not love’ Homilies on the Gospels, XXX, ch.1.
Thomas affirms that the will moves the other powers to actions toward the end: “And so, when a person’s will is intent on God, who is its end, it moves all powers to do those things which obtain him. Now it is charity which makes one intent on God, and thus it is charity which causes us to keep the commandments: ‘The love of Christ controls us’ (2 Cor 5:14)” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1942). And through obedience a person is rendered fit to see God.
Jesus declares: “My Father will love him” (Jn 10:43). Thomas reflects that the Father already loves in the sense that God always will good for us from eternity (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1942).
Jesus announces: “We will come to him and make our home within him” (Jn 10:23). Thomas recognizes that for someone to “come,” implies that the person is not already there but has to change his place.
Thomas explains: “God is said to come to us not because He moves to us, but because we move to Him. Something comes into a place in which it previously was not: but this does not apply to God since He is everywhere: “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” (Jer 23:24). Rather, God is said to come to someone because He is there in a new way, in a way He had not been there before, that is, by the effect of His grace. It is by this effect of grace that He makes us approach Him” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1944).
Thomas recalls that, according to Augustine (Tractate on John, 76, ch. 2], God comes to us in three ways and we go to him in the same three ways. “First, he comes to us by filling us with His effects; and we go to Him by receiving them: “Come to Me, you who desire me, and eat your fill of My produce” (Sir 24:19)” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1945).
“Secondly, God comes to us by enlightening us; and we go to Him by thinking of Him: “Come to Him and be enlightened” [Ps 33:6]”
“Thirdly, He comes to us by helping us; and we go to Him by obeying, because we cannot obey unless helped by Christ” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1945).
Jesus already told the disciples that the Spirit was “to be with you for ever” (14:16): “Since in the Trinity there is a distinction of Persons and a unity of essence, sometimes the three persons are mentioned to indicate the distinction of the persons… one could say that since the Holy Spirit is nothing other than the love of the Father and the Son, when the Father and Son are mentioned, the Spirit is implied” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1946).
Jesus proclaims “We will make our home with him always” (Jn 14:23). Thomas reflects: “First, when he says, home, he indicates the stability with which we cling to God. God comes to some by faith, but does not remain because ‘they believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away’ (Lk 8:13). He comes to others through their sorrow for sin; yet He does not stay with them because they return to their sins: ‘Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool that repeats his folly’ (Prv 26:11)” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1947).
“But He remains forever in His predestined: “I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20). Secondly, these words indicate the intimacy of Christ with us: with Him, that is, with the one who loves and obeys him, since He takes pleasure in us, and has us take pleasure in Him, ‘delighting in the sons of men’ (Prv 8:31)” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1947).
Jesus recognizes: “He who does not love Me does not keep My words” (Jn 14:24). St Gregory (Homily on the Gospel, XXX, ch. 2) says: “To love God it is necessary to use our words, our minds and our lives.”
Thomas comments: “The reason is obvious why God will manifest Himself to His own, and not to the world. It is because His own really have love, and it is love which distinguishes the saints from the world” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1949).
Jesus announces: “The word you hear is not mine; it comes from the Father who sent Me” (Jn 14:24).
Thomas comments: “One who does not hear this word does not love only me, he also does not love the Father. And therefore, one who loves both Christ and the Father deserves a manifestation of each. So he says: and the word which you hear, spoken by me, as a human being, is indeed mine insofar as I speak it, and yet it is not mine, insofar as it is mine from another: “My teaching is not mine” (Jn 7:16); ‘The words that I say to you I do not speak of my self’ [Jn 14:10]” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1950).
According to Augustine, Jesus does not speak of His “Word” but His “words.””But when he speaks of the utterance of the Father, he uses the singular form, “the word which you hear is not mine,” because he wants us to understand that the word of the Father is he himself, the unique Word of the Father. Thus he says he is from the Father, and not from himself, because he is neither his own image nor his own Son, but the Son and image of the Father. Yet all the words in our heart are from this unique Word of the Father” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1950).
Jesus promises the gift of the Holy Spirit: “These things, what I have said, I have spoken to you, by the instrument of my human nature, while I am still with you, as bodily present. It is indeed a very great favor that the Son himself should speak to us and teach us: “In these last days he has spoken to us by a Son” (Heb 1:1)” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1953).
The Holy Spirit will help them understand what He has taught them: “He promises them that they will understand his teachings through the Holy Spirit, who will give himself to them; he says, the Paraclete … will teach you all things” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1953).
Denis Vincent Wiseman, O.P.
The translation of St. Thomas’ Commentary on John by Fabian R. Larcher, O.P. may be found on the website: http://dhspriory.org/thomas/

Fifth Sunday of Easter – C

Today’s Gospel, John 13:31-33, 34-35, presents us words that Jesus spoke to His disciples at His Last Supper. After Judas has departed from the supper, Jesus declares: “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in Him” (Jn 13:31). St. Thomas Aquinas observes: “Christ was glorified by being lifted up on the cross” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1827).

St. Paul considered his own glory to be in the cross: “But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal 6:14).

Judas’ departure initiated the process of Jesus’ Passion, as Tomas notes, “When something is beginning, it seems in a way to already exist. Now when Judas went out to bring back the soldiers, this seems to be the beginning of Christ’s passion, the passion by which he was to be glorified” (Commentary on John, 1827).

Thomas explains how Jesus’ Passion brings glory: “Christ was glorified by the passion of the cross because by it He conquered the enemies of death and the devil: ‘that through death He might destroy him who has the power of death” (Heb 2:14).

Jesus brings about a glorious reconciliation: “He acquired glory because by His cross He joined heaven and earth: ‘to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross” (Col 1:20)” (Commentary on John, 1827).
God is glorified by Jesus’ death. John’s Gospel informs us that Peter’s eventual death will bring glory to God: “This He said to show by what death Peter was to glorify God” (Jn 21:19). Thomas notes: “He was much more glorified by the death of Christ” (Commentary on John, 1827).
Jesus proclaims: “God will in turn glorify Him in Himself, and will glorify Him soon” (Jn 13:32). Paul declares: “For the cross, although it is foolish to the Gentiles and to those who are lost, yet to us who believe, it is the very great wisdom of God and the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18).
We give glory to God as we do His will: “For God is glorified by those who seek to do His will, and not their own. Christ was like this: ‘For I have come down from heaven not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me’ (Jn 6:38). And this is why in him God is glorified…if God is glorified in him, that is, if, by doing the will of God, He glorifies God, then rightly God will also glorify Him in Himself, so that the human nature assumed by the eternal Word will be given an eternal glory. Thus, in Himself, that is, in His own glory” (Commentary on John, 1828).
Paul announces: “Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” (Phil 2:9). Therefore the glorification by which God is glorified in Christ is the merit in virtue of which Christ as man is glorified in Himself, that is, in the glory of God. This will occur when His human nature, its weakness having been laid down by the death of the cross, receives the glory of immortality at the resurrection. So the resurrection itself was the source from which this glory began. Accordingly he says, and will glorify him at once, at the resurrection, which will quickly come as Psalm 16:10 asserts: ‘You will not let your Holy One see corruption’ [Ps 16:10] (Commentary on John, 1828).
Christ was raised from the dead by the “glory of the Father”: “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” (Rom 6:4).
In the Resurrection, Jesus’ humanity was glorified: “In the resurrection the humanity of Christ was glorified because of its union with the divine nature; and there was one person, that of the Word… Such glory is also due to this human being, Christ, in so far as he is God” We too will have the glory of the resurrection to the extent that we share in the divinity: “He who raised Jesus Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you” (Rom 8:11) (Commentary on John, 1829).
Jesus’ human nature will be glorified in the Resurrection: “Christ, who reigns in the glory which is from the glory of God, may himself pass into the glory of God, that is, might entirely abide in God, as though deified by the way His human nature is possessed. It is like saying: A lamp is bright because a fire is burning brightly within it. That which sends the rays of brightness into the human nature of Christ is God; and thus the human nature of Christ is glorified by the glory of His divinity, and the human nature of Christ is brought into the glory of His divinity, not by having its nature changed, but by a sharing of glory in so far as this human being, Christ, is adored as God … the glory of His divinity overflows to the glory of His humanity” (Commentary on John, 1829).
Paul proclaims: “Every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus is in the glory of the Father” [Phil 2:11]. Thomas affirms that the glory of Jesus, in His divinity, is eternal, while the glory of God in His humanity “had a beginning in time … on the day of the resurrection” (Commentary on John, 1829).
Jesus is also glorified with “the glory of being known by the faith of the people.” Among people, this is usually associated with praise. However, in Exodus, God’s glory is “a divine sign or mark is upon one.” Exodus 40:34 states that “The glory of the Lord appeared over the tabernacle.” Moses’ face was glorified.
Thomas comments: “Just as glory, in the physical sense, indicates that a divine sign rests upon one, so, in the spiritual sense, that intellect is said to be glorified when it is so deified and so transcends all material things that it is raised to a knowledge of God. It is by this that we are made sharers of glory: ‘And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into His likeness from one degree of glory to another’ (2 Cor 3:18). Therefore, if anyone who knows God is glorified and made a sharer of glory, it is clear that Christ, who knows God most perfectly, since He is the brightness of the entire divine glory (Heb 1:30), and able to receive the splendor of the entire divine glory, if, this is so, then Christ is most perfectly glorified. And all who know God owe this to Christ” (Commentary on John, 1830).
It was only with Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection that Jesus’ power and divinity became recognized: ut men did not yet realize that Christ was so glorified by this most perfect knowledge and participation in the divinity. And so, although he was glorified in himself, he was not yet glorified in the knowledge of men: “Now is the Son of man glorified, that is, now, in His human nature, He is receiving glory in the knowledge of men because of his approaching passion. And in him God, the Father, is glorified. For the Son not only reveals himself, but the Father as well: “[Father] I have manifested thy name” (Jn 17:6). Consequently, not only is the Son glorified, but the Father also” (Commentary on John, 1831).
Jesus announces: “My children, I am not to be with you much longer” (Jn 13:33). Especially at this time, Jesus expressed His love: “Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end” (Jn 13:1).
Thomas thinks that He calls them “children” because “They did not yet perfectly love. They were not yet perfect in charity” Paul spoke similarly when he wrote the Galatians: “My little children, with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you” (Gal 4:19). Thomas notes that, after the Resurrection, Jesus tells Mary Magdalene, “Go to My brethren and say to them” (Jn 20:17).
Jesus announces: “I give you a new commandment” (Jn 13:34). Thomas raises the question how the commandment can be new when the Book of Leviticus already commanded: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev 19:18).
Thomas affirms that this commandment is new because of “the newness, the renewal, it produces: ‘You have put off the old nature with its practices and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator’ (Col 3:9). This newness is from charity, the charity to which Christ urges us” (Commentary on John, 1836).
Thomas adds: “This commandment is said to be new because of the cause which produces this renewal; and this is a new spirit. There are two spirits: the old and the new. The old spirit is the spirit of slavery; the new is the spirit of love. The first produces slaves; the second, children by adoption: ‘For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship’ (Rom 8:15) (Commentary on John, 1836).
The prophet Ezekiel had been told: “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you” (Ez 36:26).
Thomas instructs: “The spirit sets us on fire with love because ‘God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit’ (Rom 5:5) (Commentary on John, 1836).
This commandment is new because it is an effect of the New Covenant: “The difference between the New and the Old Covenant is that between love and fear: as we read in Jeremiah (31:31): ‘I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel.’ Under the Old Covenant, this commandment was observed through fear; under the New Covenant it is observed through love. So this commandment was in the Old Law, not as characteristic of it, but as a preparation for the New Law” (Commentary on John, 1836).
Jesus’ command is one of mutual love: “The import of the commandment is mutual love; thus He says: that you love one another. It is of the very nature of friendship that is not imperceptible; otherwise, it would not be friendship, but merely good-will. For a true and firm friendship the friends need a mutual love for each other; for this duplication makes it true and firm. Our Lord, wanting there to be perfect friendship among his faithful and disciples, gave them this command of mutual love: ‘Whoever fears the Lord directs his friendship aright’ (Sir 6:17)” (Commentary on John, 1837).
Thomas explains: “The standard for this mutual love is given when he says, as I have loved you. Now Christ loved us three ways: gratuitously, effectively and rightly” (Commentary on John, 1838).
Thomas points out that Jesus loved us “gratuitously”: “He loved us gratuitously because He began to love us and did not wait for us to begin to love Him: ‘Not that we loved God, but because he first loved us’ [1 Jn 4:10]. In the same way we should first love our neighbors and not wait to be loved by them or for them to do us a favor’ (Commentary on John, 1838).
Jesus loves us “effectively: “Christ loved us effectively … for love is proven to exist from what one does. The greatest thing a person can do for a friend is to give himself for that friend. This is what Christ did: ‘Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us’ (Eph 5:2). So we read: ‘Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’ (Jn 15:13)” (Commentary on John, 1838).
Thomas asserts that we should have the same type of love: “We also should be led by this example and love one another effectively and fruitfully: ‘Let us not love in word or in speech but in deed and in truth’ (1 Jn 3:18) (Commentary on John, 1838).
Thomas explains that Christ loved us “rightly”: “Christ also loved us rightly. Since all friendship is based on some kind of sharing (for similarity is a cause of love), that friendship is right which is based on a similarity or a sharing in some good. Now Christ loved us as similar to Himself by the grace of adoption, loving us in the light of this similarity in order to draw us to God. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; and so taking pity on you, I have drawn you” [Jer 31:3]” (Commentary on John, 1838).
Thomas counsels that we should imitate this love: “We also, in the one we love, should love what pertains to God and not so much the pleasure or benefits the loved one gives to us. In this kind of love for our neighbor, even the love of God is included” (Commentary on John, 1838).
Jesus declares “This is how all will know you for My disciples: your love for one another” (Jn 13:35)
Thomas affirms: “One who is in the army of a king should wear his emblem. The emblem of Christ is the emblem of charity. So anyone who wants to be in the army of Christ should be stamped with the emblem of charity. This is what he is saying here: By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. I mean a holy love: ‘I am the mother of beautiful love and of fear and of knowledge and of holy hope’ [Sir 24:24]” (Commentary on John, 1839).
“Although the apostles received many gifts from Christ, such as life, intelligence and good health, as well as spiritual goods, such as the ability to perform miracles – ‘I will give you a mouth and wisdom’ (Lk 21:15) – none of these are the emblem of a disciple of Christ, since they can be possessed both by the good and the bad. Rather, the special sign of a disciple of Christ is charity and mutual love; ‘He has put his seal upon us and given us his Spirit’ (2 Cor 1:22)” (Commentary on John, 1839).
Denis Vincent Wiseman, O.P.
The translation of St. Thomas’ Commentary on John by Fabian R. Larcher, O.P. may be found on the website: http://dhspriory.org/thomas/

Easter Sunday – C

Christians celebrate Jesus’ Resurrection with great joy. We rejoice in Jesus’ personal victory, despite the forces of evil that tried to crush Him.

Do we celebrate the Resurrection the way that we celebrate the triumphs of our national heroes or athletic champions or persons of amazing skill and talent? We might ask whether the Resurrection itself affects us?

Jesus’ victory affects us because the Resurrection confirms His identity as Son of God and confirms that His message is true and the best way for us to live our lives. Still, we may ask whether the event itself touches upon our lives?

Because a number of New Testament passages  speak of Jesus dying for our sins, we may assume that the work of our salvation was accomplished on the Cross. The Resurrection might seem to be the Father’s loving acknowledgement of His Son’s gift of Himself for us.

However, a careful reading of St. Paul’s Letters shows that the Resurrection also contributes to our salvation. Paul writes: “It was also for us, to whom it will be credited, who believe in the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over for our transgressions and was raised for our justification” (Rom 4:24-25).

The eminent Biblical scholar, Joseph Fitzmyer, S.J., in his commentary on Romans points out regarding the removal of sin and our justification referred to by Paul, “both effects are to be ascribed to the death and the resurrection … the cross and the resurrection are two intimately connected phases of the same salvific event…” (Romans, 389).

Fitzmyer reviews the efforts of the Fathers of the Church and the early medieval theologians to describe the role of the Resurrection in our salvation. He concludes: “… it remained for Thomas Aquinas to formulate the causality properly …“ Fitzmyer calls attention to a passage in Thomas’ Commentary on Romans. It is helpful to look at the full text of this passage noted by Fitzmyer:

“Christ’s death was salutary for us not only by way of merit but also by way of effecting it. For Christ’s human nature was somehow the instrument of His divinity, as Damascene says, all the acts and sufferings of His human nature were salutary for us, considering that they flowed from the power of His divinity. But because an effect has to some extent a similarity to its cause, the Apostle says that Christ’s death, by which mortal life was extinguished in Him, is the cause of extinguishing our sins. But His resurrection, by which He returns to a new life of glory, he calls the cause of our justification by which we return to the new life of justice” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans, 380).

Thomas joins the Passion with the Resurrection: “Considered on the part of their efficacy, which is dependent on the Divine power, Christ’s death and His Resurrection are the cause both of the destruction of death and the renewal of life; but considered as exemplar causes (causes by example), Christ’s death – by which He withdrew from mortal life – is the cause of the destruction of our death; while His Resurrection, whereby He inaugurated immortal life, is the cause of the repairing of our life” (3a. 56, 1, ad 4).

Paul states: “If you confess with your lips that ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom 10:9).

Fitzmyer asserts: “Because of faith, Christians are included among the children of the resurrection. Thus faith means not only that we believe in Christ’s resurrection, but that we are also removed by His death and resurrection from the realm of sin and death and taken into the state of uprightness and life” (Fitzmyer, Romans, 388).

Fitzmyer gives an apt explanation: “Paul introduces his fundamental assertion about Christian faith. Faith begins with a confession on the lips that ‘Jesus is Lord,’ but demands the concomitant recognition of the heart that God has raised Him from the dead. This is not a mere external or public affirmation, but the inmost and profound dedication of a person to God in the Lord Jesus. What Paul acknowledges here has become the affirmation par excellence of Christian faith. By His Resurrection Christ has become the first fruits of a new mode of life, He had become the ‘life-giving Spirit’ (1 Cor 15:45). Thus to confess Christ as Lord and to believe in Him as the risen Lord is one and the same thing” (Fitzmyer, Romans, 588).

Fitzmyer reaffirms these points: “In addition to the verbal confession, an inward faith is demanded, which will guide the whole person in dedication to God in Christ. Thus Kyrios [Lord] becomes the title par excellence for the risen Christ. Paul once again ascribes the resurrection of Christ to the Father. His resurrection is again presented as the kernel of Christian faith, the basis of salvation” (Fitzmyer, Romans, 592).

Thomas comments that we “recognize Him as Lord by submitting your will to Him”  (Commentary on Romans, 829).

Jesus will cause our own resurrections from the dead. Commenting on Jesus’ words, “I am the Resurrection and the life” (Jn 11:25), Thomas reflects: “I am the resurrection, is a causal one. It is the same as saying: I am the cause of the resurrection, for this manner of speaking is usually applied only to those who are the cause of something. Now Christ is the total cause of our resurrection, both of bodies and souls; and so the statement, I am the resurrection, indicates the cause. He is saying: The entire fact that everyone will rise in their souls and in their bodies will be due to me” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1516).

Aquinas affirms that Christ’s resurrection causes our eventual resurrections from the dead: “Christ’s Resurrection must be the cause of ours” (3a. 56, 1). He recalls Paul’s words: “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. By a man came death, by a man has come the resurrection of the dead” (1 Cor 15:20-21).

Thomas explains that the man Adam brought death, so God chose to bring life through Christ’s humanity: “God willed to reintegrate human nature, which had been corrupted by man, because death entered through a man. Therefore, it pertained to the dignity of human nature that it be reintegrated by a man, but this is so that it be brought back to life. Therefore, it was fitting that just as death entered through a man, namely, Adam, so the resurrection of the dead be accomplished by a man, namely, Christ” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians, 931).

According to Thomas, we experience Christ’s sufferings and then share in His Resurrection: “First of all we are conformed to the suffering and dying Christ in this suffering and mortal life; and afterwards may come to share in the likeness of His Resurrection” (3a. 56, 1, ad 1).

Thomas affirms that Christ doesn’t merit our Resurrection by His Resurrection because Christ merited during His human lifetime. Rather Christ’s resurrection is the “efficient and exemplar cause of ours.” Thomas explains: “It is the efficient cause, inasmuch as Christ’s humanity, according to which He rose again, is as it were the instrument of His Godhead, and works by its power” (3a. 56, 1, ad 3).

Christ’s Resurrection is also the “exemplar cause” (causes by example). Thomas tells us: “Just as the Resurrection of Christ’s body, through the personal union with the Word, is first in point of time, so also is it first in dignity and perfection. But whatever is most perfect is always the exemplar, which the less perfect copies according to its mode; consequently Christ’s Resurrection is the exemplar of ours… ‘He will reform the body of our lowliness to be like His glorious body” (3a. 56, 1, ad 3).

“In both cases the effect brought about by the power of God is said to be caused by Christ’s death and resurrection… the passion and death of Christ are properly the causes of the remission of our faults, for we die to sin. The resurrection, on the other hand, more properly causes the newness of life through grace or justice” (3a. 56, 2).

Paul asks: “Who will condemn them? Christ Jesus, who died, or rather who was raised, who is at God’s right hand and even intercedes for us” (Rom 8:34). Fitzmyer reflects: “The risen, exalted Christ still presents his supplication to the Father on behalf of the Christian elect. So not only the Spirit intercedes for Christians (8:26-27), but also the heavenly Christ…”

This idea of the saving power of the Resurrection is expressed in two of the Prefaces for Easter. Preface I of Easter declares: “By dying He has destroyed our death, and by rising, restored our life.” Preface II of Easter proclaims, “His death is our ransom from death, and in His rising the life of all has risen.”

Denis Vincent Wiseman, O.P.

References to the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas give the part of the Summa, the question and the article. If the passage is found in a response to an objection that Thomas has introduced in the first part of the article, the Latin word “ad,” meaning “to,” is added with the number of the objection.

The quotations from St. Thomas’ Commentary on John and his Commentary of the First Letter to the Corinthians may be found on the website: http://dhspriory.org/thomas/