Pentecost – A

The Holy Spirit is always giving gifts, whether for us as individuals or for the common good, but some of these are uniquely referred to as the “Gifts of the Holy Spirit.” They are “permanent” gifts, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:

The moral life of Christians is sustained by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are permanent dispositions which make man docile in following the promptings of the Holy Spirit. The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David. They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd edition, 1830-1831, p. 450.

The gifts are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. Six of these names come from the Hebrew text of Isaiah 11:3. The seventh is found in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) and the Vulgate (the Latin translation) version of the Old Testament.

In their original context they describe the qualities of the ideal Davidic king, whom Christians understand to be Jesus. By extension, the gifts are also given to those who are “in Christ” by Baptism.

In addition to the passage in Isaiah, the New Testament speaks of the variety of ways by which the Spirit gives interior gifts in a lasting way, habitually counseling, revealing, inspiring, empowering and transforming believers and drawing them to the Son and Father. These New Testament gifts are expressions of the Gifts of the Spirit upon us.

 The Holy Spirit’s presence is permanent. Jesus said to the apostles, “He will remain in you and be in you” (Jn 14:17). Paul writes, “The charity of God is poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Spirit Who is given to us” (Rom 5:5).

We might get the impression that the way that the Spirit gives a person one of these gifts, for example, wisdom, is similar to the way that a new chip can be installed in our computer.

Actually, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are not things that we possess. The “gifts” are dispositions that open us to the action of the Holy Spirit, for instance to act wisely, as inspired by the Spirit. Thomas C. O’Brien says that the teaching on the “Gifts” is “a key to St. Thomas’ theology of the Christian life.” As O’Brien explains, “Before Thomas, no one had characterized the Gifts by reference to the promptings of the Spirit.” (Thomas C. O’Brien, in Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, vol. 31, 144-145, note d).

Thomas recognizes that we are usually disposed by virtue to act in a good way in human affairs: “Human virtue perfects a human person in what is natural for him to be moved by his reason in his interior and exterior actions” (1a2ae. 68, 1). However, over and above the virtues, we are given the “gifts’ so that we can be disposed beyond our reason: “A human person needs higher perfections to be disposed to be moved by God. these perfections are called gifts, not only because they are infused by God, but also because of them a person is disposed to become responsive to Divine inspiration” (1a2ae. 68, 1).

Thomas affirms: “The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are habits (dispositions) by which a person is perfected to obey readily the Holy Spirit” (1a.2ae. 68, 3). Thomas emphasizes that these gifts do not make a person a passive instrument of the Spirit: “A human person is not an instrument which is just acted upon; for he is acted upon by the Holy Spirit so that he acts by himself, in so far as he has freewill” (1a2ae. 68, 3 ad 2).

The Gifts presuppose the virtues of faith, hope and charity, which are the means by which we are united with God:

The mind of a person is not moved by the Holy Spirit, unless in some way it is united with Him, as an instrument is not moved by the craftsman, unless there be contact or some kind of union between them. The primary union of humans with God is by faith, hope and charity: and, consequently, these virtues are presupposed to the gifts, as their roots…  derived from them (1a2ae. 68, 4, ad 3).

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are connected together in charity. Thomas states: “Whoever has charity has all the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, none of which one can possess without charity” (1a2ae. 68, 5). Thomas affirms: “Wisdom and understanding and the others are gifts of the Holy Spirit, as they are enlivened by charity” (1a2ae. 68, 8 ad 3).

Denis Vincent Wiseman, O.P.

References to the Summa Theologiae give the part of the Summa, the question and the article. If the reference is a response to an objection that Thomas has raised, the reference will indicate “ad,” meaning “to” the objection. This reference is found in the third part of the Summa, question 68, and various articles.

Ascension – A

The second reading for the Solemnity of the Ascension, Ephesians 1:17-23, begins, “The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory…” (Eph 1:17). Jesus healed many people and taught many wonderful mysteries but His greatest teaching was revealing God to us, not a God upon whom we project our fears or the God of our needs but the God of “our Lord Jesus Christ.”

If we look closely at this passage, we can recognize a comparison between what has happened to Jesus, in His death, Resurrection and Exaltation and what will happen to ourselves. The Letter asks that we may be granted special gifts to go beyond living by what is apparent, that God “… may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him” (Eph 1:17). St Thomas Aquinas maintains that all believers already have the gifts of faith hope and charity but we ask for additional gifts to know God on a deeper level.

We need the spirit of wisdom, which only God can give: “Who ever knew Your counsel, unless You had given wisdom, and sent Your Holy Spirit from above” (Wis. 9:17). Wisdom is the knowledge of divine realities, the gift “to know Him more clearly.” We ask for the gift of understanding, which Thomas tells us “consists in the revelation of spiritual mysteries that God alone can give” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians, 50).

Ephesians requests that “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened …” (Eph 1:18). Looking over our own lives, we may realize that only slowly did Jesus’ teachings sink in. For whole periods of our lives, we just didn’t “get it.” The things we did and said followed from our lack of understanding.

Ephesians tells us that wisdom and understanding are needed that, “… you may know the great hope to which He has called you” (Eph 1:18). Our existence has a purpose beyond survival and personal achievements. The wisdom and understanding that come from God give us hope. Paul affirms, “We are saved by hope” (Rom. 8:24).

We are, according to Ephesians, “called to hope.” Thomas maintains that the virtue of hope concerns “an immense reality”: “This hope is of utmost importance because it concerns the greatest realities” (Commentary on Ephesians, 53). The First Letter of Peter declares, “He has given us a new birth to a living hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet. 1:3).

The First Letter of Peter gives attention to Baptism when it speaks of a “new birth” that gives us “a living hope.” This hope is founded on “the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

The Letter to the Hebrews encourages us to “hold fast” to this hope: “That we who have fled for refuge may have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. This we have as a sure and firm anchor of the soul, which enters [the sanctuary] behind the veil” (Heb. 6:18-19).

Other New Testament Letters speak of present challenges in light of the future gifts: “The sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18); “for this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an incomparable eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17).

Our confidence in the future is based not on our resources but on God’s power: “ … that you may know… what is the exceeding greatness of His power towards us, who believe, according to the working of His great might” (Eph 1:19).

God’s manifestations of power upon His Son is the model of what God will do in us, as Thomas affirms: “As the life of Christ is the form and exemplar of our justice, so Christ’s glory and exaltation is the form and exemplar of our glory and exaltation” (Commentary on Ephesians, 56).

Thomas asserts that what God did for the Son, He will do for us: “The divine activity in Christ is the form and exemplar of the divine activity in us … according to ‘the working’ of the might of His power, meaning the powerful might of God, ‘which He worked in Christ,’ exalting Him who is the head. Understand that in this way He will mightily act in us” (Commentary on Ephesians, 57).  

Paul affirms: ‘We await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transfigure our wretched body to be like His glorious body by the power which enables Him to subject all things to Himself’” (Phil. 3:20-21).

As God acted on His Son, so will He act for us by the same strength, “the strength which God the Father showed in raising Christ from the dead” (Eph 1:20). Paul expresses this confidence in the Letter to the Romans: “And, if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you; He that raised up Jesus Christ from the dead shall quicken also your mortal bodies, because of His Spirit that dwells in you” (Rom. 8: 11).

Jesus is not only raised but also He is exalted: “God seated Him at His right hand in heaven” (Eph 1:20). Thomas Aquinas reminds us that this is a figurative way of speaking:

“Considered in relation to God, He is seated at His right hand; this is not to be thought of as a bodily organ—‘God is a Spirit’ (Jn. 4:24)—but as a metaphorical way of speaking… When we say that Christ Jesus is seated at the right hand of God, it should be understood that according to His humanity He partakes of the Father’s choicest blessings, and according to His divinity it is understood as equality with the Father. ‘The Lord spoke to my Lord: Sit at My right’ (Ps. 110: 1); ‘And the Lord Jesus, after He had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat on the right hand of God’ (Mk 16:19)” (Commentary on Ephesians, 60).

Thomas recognizes that we will not only share Christ’s Resurrection but also His exaltation: “In Scripture we frequently read that we will be exalted in the likeness of Christ’s exaltation. For example, ‘…provided we suffer with Him, so as also to be glorified with Him’ (Rom 8:17); ‘He who conquers I will grant him to sit with Me in My throne; as I Myself have conquered and sat down with My Father on His throne’” (Rev 3:21).

Christ is “above every name that is named,” indicating that Christ has been exalted above every spiritual creature: “He gave Him a name which is above all names” (Phil. 2:9). “Every creature is totally subject to the power of Christ”: ‘All power is given to Me in heaven and in earth’ (Mt 28:18); ‘For in subjecting all things to Him, He left nothing not subjected to Him’” (Heb. 2:8).

Everything is said to be “under His feet,” meaning “every creature is totally subject to the power of Christ” (Commentary on Ephesians, 65). Matthew states: “All power is given to Me in heaven and in earth” (Mt 28:18) and the Letter to the Hebrews declares: “For in subjecting all things to Him, He left nothing not subjected to Him” (Heb. 2:8).

Because Christ is exalted over all, we can have confidence in Christ’ power on us in the future but also in the present: “the wealth of His glorious heritage to be distributed among the members of the church” (Eph 1:18).

In the present, Christ is “the head of the Church, which is His body” (Eph 1:22). Thomas reflects: “He speaks of the relation of the Church to Christ at which is His body, inasmuch as she is subject to Him, receives His influence, and shares the same nature with Christ. ‘Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body’ (1 Cor. 12:12-13)” (Commentary on Ephesians, 70).

The natural body has hands, feet, mouth, which have different activities but each is related to the soul and activated by the soul. Christ is related to His body as its fullness, in a similar way: “The soul itself is the cause and principle of these members and what they are, the soul is virtually. For the body is made for the soul and not the other way around. From this perspective, the natural body is a certain fullness of the soul; unless the members exist with an integral body, the soul cannot exercise fully its activities” (Commentary on Ephesians, 71).

Thomas draws out the relationship between Jesus as the head and the Church which is His body:

“Since the Church was instituted on account of Christ, the Church is called the fullness of Christ. Everything which is virtually in Christ is, as it were, filled out in some way in the members of the Church. For all spiritual understanding, gifts, and whatever can be present in the Church—all of which Christ possesses superabundantly—flow from Him into the members of the Church, and they are perfected in them. So he adds who is filled all in all since Christ makes this member of the Church wise with the perfect wisdom present in Himself, and He makes another just with His perfect justice, and so on with the others” (Commentary on Ephesians, 71).

Denis Vincent Wiseman, O.P. 

References to St. Thomas Aquinas’ Commentary on Ephesians are taken from the translation of Fr. Fabian R. Larcher, O.P. and M. L. Lamb, edited by J. Mortensen and E. Alarcón. The translation, found in Volume 39 of the Biblical Commentaries, was published by the Aquinas Institute for the Study of Sacred Doctrine, Lander, Wyoming, in 2012, pages 202-213.

Sixth Sunday of Easter – A

In departing from His disciples, Jesus says that He will ask the Father to send the “Spirit of Truth” to those who “love Me and obey My commandments.” Thomas Aquinas understands this to mean, “You don’t express your love for me by tears but by obedience to My commands, for this is a clear sign of love” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1908).

Thomas asks whether love and obedience are a necessary preparation for the Holy Spirit? St. Paul implies that the Spirit brings love, “The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Rom 5:5) and “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Rom 8:14).

Do we deserve to receive the Spirit because we love the Son? St. Thomas gives us some light:

No one can love God unless he has the Holy Spirit: because we do not act before we receive God’s grace, rather, the grace comes first: ‘He loved us first’ (1 Jn 4:10). We should say, therefore, that the apostles first received the Holy Spirit so that they could love God and obey His commands. But it was necessary that they make good use, by their love and obedience, of this first gift of the Holy Spirit in order to receive the Spirit more fully. And so the meaning is, If you love Me, by means of the Holy Spirit, whom you have, and obey My commandments, you will receive the Holy Spirit with greater fullness (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1909).

What is Jesus’ role in relation to us at present? Thomas reflects:

Our Lord Jesus Christ, as a human being, is the mediator between God and humankind, as we see in 1 Timothy 2:5. And so as a human being He approaches God and asks heavenly gifts for us, and coming to us, He lifts us up and leads us to God. And so, because He had already come to us, and by giving us the commandments of God had led believers to God, He still had to return to the Father and ask for spiritual gifts: ‘Approaching God by Himself He is able to save forever’ [Heb 7:25]. He does this by asking the Father; and He says this, I will pray the Father: ‘When He ascended on high He led a host of captives and He gave gifts to men’ (Eph 4:8) (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1910).

St. Thomas observes: “Note that it is the same person who asks that the Paraclete be given and who gives the Paraclete. He asks as a human being, He gives as God” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1910).

Thomas understands “Paraclete” to mean “consoler.” Thomas affirms that the Father will give the Paraclete, “but not without the Son.”

Thomas states, “The Holy Spirit… is the Consoler, since He is the spirit of love. It is love that causes spiritual consolation and joy: ‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy’ (Gal 5:22). The Holy Spirit is our advocate: ‘We do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words’”(Rom 8:26).

Jesus says, “I will give you another Paraclete.” Thomas recognizes that the First Letter of John describes Jesus as our advocate: “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 Jn 2:1).  Thomas demonstrates that both the Son and the Spirit are consolers and advocates:

Yet the Son and the Holy Spirit are not consolers and advocates in the same way, if we consider the appropriation of persons. Christ is called an advocate because as a human being He intercedes for us to the Father; the Holy Spirit is an advocate because He makes us ask. Again, the Holy Spirit is called a consoler because He is formally love. But the Son is a consoler because He is the Word. The Son is a consoler in two ways: because of His teaching and because the Son gives the Holy Spirit and incites love in our hearts (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1912).

According to Thomas, once the Spirit is given, He remains:

The Spirit is truly given because it is given forever. Thus he says, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth. When something is given to a person only for a time, this is not a true giving; but there is a true giving when something is given to be kept forever. And so the Holy Spirit is truly given because He is to remain with them forever. He is with us forever: in this life He enlightens and teaches us, bringing things to our mind; and in the next life He brings us to see the very reality (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1914).

Thomas questions whether we receive the Spirit in the same way that Christ received the Spirit. Thomas answers: “Certain gifts of the Holy Spirit are necessary for salvation; these are found in all the saints and always remain in us, as charity, which never leaves (1 Cor 13:8), since it will continue into the future. Other gifts are not necessary for salvation, but are given to the faithful so they can manifest the Spirit: ‘To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good’” (1 Cor 12:7) (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1915).

The Spirit gives the gift of lasting charity to the saints but “It is peculiar to Christ that the Spirit is always with Him by the second type of gift, for Christ always has a plenitude of power to work miracles and to prophesy, and so on” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1915).

Thomas explains that the Spirit is “a most excellent gift because He is the Spirit of truth” (1916). He is called “Spirit” “… to show the subtlety or fineness of his nature, for the word ‘spirit’ is used to indicate something which is undiscoverable and invisible. And so what is invisible is usually referred to as a spirit. The Holy Spirit also is undiscoverable and invisible” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1916).

Thomas recalls the words of the Gospel: “The Spirit blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes” (Jn 3:8).

“Spirit” also indicates power: “He is also called the Spirit to indicate His power, because He moves us to act and work well. For the word ‘spirit’ indicates a certain impulse, and that is why the word spiritus can also mean the wind” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1916).

He is the “Spirit of Truth” because “This Spirit proceeds from the Truth and speaks the truth, for the Holy Spirit is nothing else than Love” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1916).

Thomas reflects that the Spirit proceeds from the Son, who is Truth:

The Holy Spirit leads to the knowledge of the truth, because He proceeds from the Truth, who says, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life’ (Jn 14:6). In us, love of the truth arises when we have conceived and considered truth. So also in God, Love proceeds from conceived Truth, which is the Son. And just as Love proceeds from the Truth, so Love leads to knowledge of the truth: ‘He [The Holy Spirit] will glorify Me because He will receive from Me and declare it to you’ (Jn 16: 14).

Thomas recalls the words of Paul: “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3). Thomas comments: “It is a characteristic of the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth because it is love which impels one to reveal His secrets: ‘I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you’ (15:15)”.

The world cannot receive the Spirit. Thomas reflects on those who love the “world”: “As long as they love the world they cannot receive the Holy Spirit, for He is the love of God. And no one can love, as his destination, both God and the world: ‘If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him’ (1 Jn 2:15).

The world neither sees nor knows the Spirit. Thomas considers why this is the case: “For spiritual gifts are not received unless they are desired…  And they are not desired unless they are somehow known. Now there are two reasons why they are not known. First, because one does not want to know them; and secondly, because one is not capable of such knowledge” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1919).

Thomas refers to Augustine: “Worldly love does not have invisible eyes which alone can see the invisible Holy Spirit” (Treatise on John, 74, ch. 4). Paul affirms: “The sensual person does not perceive those things pertaining to the Spirit of God” [1 Cor 2:14].

Believers will be given the Spirit: “The Holy Spirit is given to believers: he says, you, who are moved by the Holy Spirit, will know Him: ‘Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God’ (1 Cor 2:12). This is because you scorn the world: ‘We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen’ (2 Cor 4:18).”

Jesus announces that the Spirit will dwell in them: “Note how intimate His indwelling is, for He will be in you, that is, in the depths of your heart: ‘I will put a new Spirit within them’ (Ez 11:19)” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1920).

Jesus promises His disciples “I will come to you” (Jn 14:18). Jesus was present in the Incarnation: “Christ Jesus came into the world” (1 Tim 1:15). There are two other bodily comings. The first is between the Resurrection and the Ascension. The second is when Jesus comes in judgment: “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

Thomas declares: “His third coming is spiritual and invisible, that is, when He comes to His faithful by grace, either in life or in death” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1923).

Jesus announces “I will come to you” (Jn 14:18) and “I will see you again” (Jn 16:22). These are the three ways: “Again, I will come to you at the end of the world: ‘The Lord will come to judge’ [Is 3:14]. And again I will come at your death to take you to Myself: ‘I will come again and will take you to Myself’ (Jn 14:3). And again, I will come to you, visiting you in a spiritual way: “We will come to Him and make our home with Him” (Jn 14:23).”

Jesus tells the disciples “I live and you shall live” (Jn 14:19). Thomas comments: “I will live after the resurrection: ‘I died, and behold I am alive for evermore’ (Rev 1:18). Thomas reminds us of Paul’s words: “’We shall always be with the Lord’ (1 Thess 4:17).

Thomas interprets Jesus to mean: “You will see me because I live and you will live also. This is like saying: Just as I have a glorified life in My soul and in My body, so will you ‘Christ will change our lowly body to be like His glorious body’ (Phil 3:21). He says this because our glorified life is produced by the glorified life of Christ: ‘For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive’ (1 Cor 15:22).”

Thomas understands Jesus’ words, “On that day you will know that I am in the Father” (Jn 14:20) to be referring to the day of the Resurrection: “ they will know this by the knowledge of faith, because then having seen that He has arisen and is among them, they will have a most certain faith about Him, especially those who would receive the Holy Spirit, who would teach them all things” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1927).

Jesus told the disciples: “The Father who dwells in Me does the works” (Jn 14:10) and “He who believes in Me will also do the works that I do” (Jn 14:12). Thomas asks whether this means that Jesus is less than the Father just as the disciples were less than Jesus? Thomas responds: “When Christ says, I am in my Father, He means by a consubstantiality of nature: ‘I and the Father are one’ (Jn 10:30); ‘And the Word was with God’ (Jn 1:1).”

The statement, “’you in Me’ means that the disciples are in Christ.” Something protected or shielded is in the thing, such as a thing contained in a container or the affairs of a kingdom in the hands of the king.

The Acts of the Apostles states of God, “in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).  Thomas explains Jesus’ words “And I in you, remaining within you, and acting and indwelling within you by grace” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1930). This is what the Letter to the Ephesians stated: “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Eph 3:17) and what Paul was asserting: “You desire proof that Christ is speaking in me” (2 Cor 113:3).

Thomas acknowledges St. Hilary’s explanation:

And you in me, that is, you will be in me through your nature, which I have taken on: for in taking on our nature He took us all on: He did not take hold of the angels, but He did take hold of the seed of Abraham” (Heb 2:16). And I in you, that is, I will be in you when you receive My sacrament, for when one receives the body of Christ, Christ is in him: ‘He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him’ (Jn 6:56). (De Trinitate, 8).

Thomas offers additional explanation: “and you in me, and I in you,” that is, by our mutual love, for we read: “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 Jn 4:16).

Jesus proclaims: “He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me.” Thomas reflects:

Note that true love is love which appears and proves itself by actions: for love is revealed by its actions. Since to love someone is to will that person something good and to desire what this person wants, one does not seem to truly love a person if he does not accomplish the will of the beloved or do what he knows this person wants. And so one who does not do the will of God does not seem to truly love Him (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1932).

Thomas refers to Augustine’s words: “The person who keeps the commandments in his memory and keeps them in his life, who has them in his speech and keeps them in his conduct, who has them by hearing them and keeps them by doing them, who has them by doing and persisting in doing them, this is one who loves Me” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1933) (Tractate on John, 75, ch. 5).

Thomas questions whether Jesus’ words, “He who loves Me will be loved by My Father” could indicate that God loves us because we love Him. He answers: “Assuredly not; for we read: ‘not that we loved God, but because He has first loved us’ (1 Jn 4:10).

Thomas refers back to Jesus’ teaching, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me.” Thomas explains: “This does not mean that one keeps the commandments and as a result of this loves. But rather, one loves, and as a result of this, keeps the commandments” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1934).

Thomas concludes:

In the same way, we should say here that one is loved by the Father, and as a result he loves Christ, and not that one is loved because he loves. Therefore, we love the Son because the Father loves us. For it is a characteristic of true love that it draws the one loved to love the one who loves him: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love, and therefore I have drawn you having compassion on you’ (Jer 31:3) (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1934).

Thomas notices that the Father’s love is with the Son’s love: “Because the Father’s love is not without the Son’s love, since it is the same love in each, ‘Whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise’ (Jn 5:19).”

Thomas asks why Jesus says “I will love him” since God loves from all eternity. Thomas concludes: “We should answer that love, considered as being in the divine will, is eternal; but considered as manifested in the accomplishment of some work and effect, is temporal. So the meaning is: and I will love him, that is, I will show the effect of My love, because I will manifest myself to him: for I love in order to manifest Myself” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1935).

God reveals Himself to those whom He loves:

Note that one’s love for another is sometimes qualified and sometimes absolute. It is qualified when one wills the other some particular good; but it is absolute when one wills the other all good. Now God loves every created thing in a qualified sense, because he wills some good to every creature, even to the demons, for example, that they live and understand and exist. There are particular goods. But God loves absolutely those to whom he wills all good, that is, that they have God Himself. And to have God is to have truth, for God is Truth. But truth is had or possessed when it is known. So God, who is Truth, truly and absolutely loves those to whom He manifests Himself. (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1936).

Thomas responds to the question whether the Father will reveal Himself:

For the Son manifests Himself and the Father at the same time, because the Son is the Word of the Father: “No one knows the Father except the Son” (Mt 11:27). If in the meantime the Son manifests Himself to anyone in some way, this is a sign of God’s love. And this can be a reason why the world will not see Him, because He will not manifest Himself to it because it does not love Him (1937).

Denis Vincent Wiseman, O.P.

References to St. Thomas Aquinas’ Commentary on the Gospel of John may be found in the translation by Fr. James A. Weisheipl, O.P. and Fr. Fabian R. Larcher, O.P., published by St. Bede’s Publications.

Fifth Sunday of Easter – A

Jesus tells His disciples, “Believe in Me” (Jn 14:1). St. Thomas Aquinas points out that we believe persons but God is the only one we can believe in (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1851).

Jesus declares, “In My Father’s house there are many dwelling places” (Jn 14:2).

Thomas asks whether the “many dwelling places” implies that there are different levels of happiness in heaven. In a certain way, all receive the same good, just as in the parable, where all the workers receive a denarius, no matter how long they have worked (Mt 20:10). Thomas explains: “the supreme good itself, which is the object and cause of happiness, cannot be greater or less. This is because there is only one supreme good, which is God” (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1854).

In another way, we delight in God according as we are “the better disposed and prepared he is to enjoy it”:

Happiness consists in two things. The first is the vision of God; and one is disposed for this by purity. And so the more one has a heart which is raised above earthly matters, the more he will see God, and the more perfectly. Secondly, happiness consists in the delight of enjoying [God], and one is disposed for this by love. Thus, one who has a more burning love for God will find more delight in the enjoyment of God. We read about the first in Matthew (5:8): ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see’ (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1854).

Thomas picks up on St. Gregory the Great’s explanation of the different dwellings: “It is like a spring of water, available to all to take as much as they wish. Then, one who has a larger cup will receive more, and one who has a smaller cup will receive less. Therefore, there is one fountain, considering it in itself, but everyone does not receive the same portion” (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1855).

The reward is one, but “there are differences in capacity” (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1855). In another way, the reward is one because we also delight in each other: “This reward is one because of charity, which unites everything, and makes the joy of each the joy of the rest, and conversely: ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice’ (Rom 12:15)” (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1855).

Jesus says that He would have prepared a place for us. Is there some imperfection in the place? Does it have to be cleaned or enlarged? Isaiah says, “Enlarge the place of your tent” (Is 54:2). Thomas answers that the place itself is already prepared: “But this place, in itself, is prepared; for this place is God himself, as was said, in whom is the abundance of all perfections. But perhaps you do not have the means to enter it” (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1857).

Thomas says that Jesus prepared a place by helping the disciples grow in faith: “First He made room for faith: for since faith concerns things not seen, when the disciples saw Christ in person, they did not need faith for this. Thus He left them, so that the one they had possessed by His bodily presence and saw with their bodily eyes, they could still possess in His spiritual presence and see with the eyes of their mind. This is to possess Him by faith” (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1859).

Jesus shows us the way to the place, which is Himself. Jesus prays for us: “… by His prayers for them: ‘He is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through Him’ (Heb 7:25). Jesus draws us to Himself: ‘by attracting them to what is above: ‘Draw me after you’ (Song 1:4); ‘If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above’ (Col 3:1).” Jesus prepares us by giving us His Spirit: by sending them the Holy Spirit: ‘As yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified’ (7:39) (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1859).

Jesus tells the disciples: “I shall come back to take you with Me that where I am you also may be” (Jn 14:3). Does this happen to us when we die? Paul tells the Philippians: “I long to depart this life and be with Christ” (Phil 1:23). Thomas reflects that Jesus’ words “… can be understood as that spiritual coming with which Christ always visits the Church of the faithful and vivifies each of the faithful at death” (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1861).

According to Thomas, Jesus is saying: “I will come again, to the Church, spiritually and continuously, and will take you to Myself, that is, I will strengthen you in faith and love for Me: … that is, to the community of the saints… to delight in their virtues… and to draw pure souls to Himself when He gives life to the saints at death” (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1861).

Jesus tells the disciples that they know where He is going and they know the way but the apostle Thomas protests that they do not know where He is going and they do not know the way (Jn 14:4-5). Thomas Aquinas affirms that both statements are true: “They clearly knew that Christ was a human being, they only imperfectly recognized his divinity” (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1866). Thomas states: “Knowledge of the way depends on knowledge of the destination” (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1866).

Jesus announces that He is the “way, the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6). Jesus is our way to the Father, as Paul declares: “through Him we have gained access to this grace in which we stand” (Rom 5:2). The way is also the destination: “this way is not separated from its destination but united to it… Christ is at once both the way and the destination. He is the way by reason of His human nature, and the destination because of His divinity” (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1868).

Humans desire two things, truth and to continue to exist. Christ is the answer:

“Christ is the way to arrive at the knowledge of the truth, while still being the truth itself: ‘Teach me thy way O Lord, that I may walk in Your truth’ (Ps 86:11). Christ is also the way to arrive at life, while still being life itself: ‘You show me the path of life’ (Ps 16:11). And so He indicated the destination or end of this way as truth and life. These two were already applied to Christ: first, He is life: ‘In Him was life’ (Jn 1:4); then, He is truth, because ‘the life is the light of men’ (Jn 1:4), and light is truth” (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1868).

According to Thomas, truth is the conformity between our intellect and the thing itself. Our truth is the conformity between our perception, our word, and reality. The Son is God’s Word, the measure of all reality:

Yet although our word is true, it is not truth itself, since it is not true of itself but because it is conformed to the thing conceived. And so the truth of the divine intellect belongs to the Word of God. But because the Word of God is true of itself (since it is not measured by things, but things are true in the measure that they are similar to the Word) the Word of God is truth itself. And because no one can know the truth unless he adheres to the truth, it is necessary that anyone who desires to know the truth adhere to this Word (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1869).

Life also belongs to Christ. A living thing is something whose motion is from itself. Chief among the activities of living things is “understanding.” Thomas reflects: “Now in God the activity of understanding and the intellect itself are the same. Thus, it is clear that the Son, who is the Word of the intellect of the Father, is His own life” (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1869).

Christ is then the way and the destination: “Christ referred to himself as the way, united to its destination: because He is the destination, containing in Himself whatever can be desired, that is, existing truth and life” (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1869).

Christ is the way. Thomas recalls Isaiah’s words: “This is the way; walk in it” (Is 30:21). Augustine had stated: “”Walk like this human being and you will come to God. It is better to limp along on the way than to walk briskly off the way” (Sermones de Verbis Domini 142, ch. 1). Thomas reflects: “For one who limps on the way, even though he makes just a little progress, is approaching his destination; but if one walks off the way, the faster he goes the further he gets from his destination” (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1870).

Thomas explains:

“If you ask where to go, cling to Christ, for He is the truth which we desire to reach… If you ask where to remain, remain in Christ because He is the life: ‘He who finds Me finds life and shall have favor from the Lord’[Prv 8:35].”

“Therefore, cling to Christ if you wish to be secure, for you cannot get off the road because He is the way. And so those who hold on to Him are not walking off the road but on the right road…”

“Again, those who hold on to Christ cannot be deceived, because He is the truth and teaches all truth: ‘For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth’ (Jn 18:37). Further, they cannot be troubled, because He is the life and the giver of life: ‘I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly’ (Jn 10:10)” (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1871).                                                                 

Christ has gone in the flesh but remains. Thomas offers an explanation: “When I speak to others, my mind goes out to them, yet it does not leave me; and when I am silent, in a certain sense I return to myself, yet still remain with those to whom I spoke [if they remember what I said]. And so Christ, who is our way, be­came the way even for Himself, this is, for His flesh, to go to the truth and the life” (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1872).

Jesus declares: “No one comes to the Father but by Me” (Jn 14:6). Thomas affirms: “The way, which is Christ, leads to the Father. Yet, because the Father and the Son are one, this way leads also to Himself. And so Christ says that He is the terminus [end] of the way” (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1873).

Paul states: “… who knows what pertains to a person except the spirit of the person that is within?” (1 Cor 2:11). Thomas reflects that a person may choose to reveal himself: “A person reveals what is hidden within by his words, and it is only by the words of a person that we can know what is hidden within” (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1874).

Paul’s thought continued: “Similarly, no one knows what pertains to God except the Spirit of God” (1 Cor 2:11). Thomas understand this to mean, “No one can acquire a knowledge of the Father except by His Word, which is His Son: ‘No one knows the Father except the Son’ (Mt 11:27)” (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1874).

Humans express their thoughts in words. God also expresses Himself in a word: “And just like one of us who wants to be known by others by revealing to them the words in his heart, clothes these words with letters or sounds, so God, wanting to be known by us, takes his Word, conceived from eternity, and clothes it with flesh in time. And so no one can arrive at a knowledge of the Father except through the Son. Thus He says: ‘I am the door; if any one enters by Me, he will be saved’ (10:9)” (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1874).

Jesus proclaims: “If you know Me, then you will also know My Father” (Jn 14:7). Thomas brings together passages of the New Testament where this idea is located:

“For there is no better way to know something than through its word or image, and the Son is the Word of the Father: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God’ (1:1); ‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father’ (1:14). The Son is also the image of the Father: ‘He is the image of the invisible God’ (Col 1:15); ‘He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of His nature’ (Heb 1:3). Therefore, the Father is known in the Son as in His Word and proper image” (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1878).

Every word in some way reflects God and everything that God has created reflects the Creator:

“Note that to the extent that something approaches to a likeness of the Word of the Father, to that extent the Father is known in it, and to that extent it is in the image of the Father. Now since every created word is some likeness of that Word, and some likeness, though imperfect, of the divinity is found in everything, either as an image or a trace, it follows that what God is cannot be known perfectly through any creature or by any thought or concept of a created intellect. It is the Word alone, the only‑begotten Word, which is a perfect word and the perfect image of the Father that knows and comprehends the Father” (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1879).

Jesus announces to His disciples: “From now on you do know Him and have seen Him” (Jn 14:7). How have they seen the Father? Thomas develops this:

“… henceforth you shall know Him, after the mystery of My passion has been accomplished. Or, in the other way, henceforth, after my resurrection and ascension and after I have sent the Holy Spirit, you shall know Him, with the perfect knowledge of faith, for when the Spirit, the Paraclete, comes, ‘He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you’ (Jn 14:26).

“They saw Christ in the flesh He had taken on, in which the Word existed, and in the Word they saw the Father. Thus they saw the Father in Him: ‘He who sent Me is with Me’ (Jn 8:29)” (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1880).

Thomas is sympathetic with Philip’s request that Jesus show them the Father: “This is not surprising since that vision of the Father is the end of all our desires and actions, and nothing else is necessary: ‘You will show me the path of life, abounding joy in Your presence,’ that is, by the vision of your face [Ps 16:11]; ‘He fills your days with good things’ [Ps 103:5] (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1883).

Jesus chides His disciples because He had been with them but still they don’t know Him. Thomas thinks that they still knew Him in a human way but not in a divine way (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1886). Jesus asserts: “Whoever has seen Me had seen the Father” (Jn 14:9). Thomas recalls an idea of Augustine that we say about people who look like each other, that to see one is to see the other. Thomas shows that the likeness between the Son and the Father is greater:

“In fact, there is a greater likeness in the Son than there is among mere human beings, because in them there can never be a likeness based on the very same numerical form or quality, but only a likeness in species. In the Son, however, there is the same numerical nature as in the Father. Thus, when seeing the Son, the Father is better seen than when seeing some mere human another mere human is seen, no matter how much alike they are” (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1887).

Jesus announces: “Whoever believes in Me will do the works that I do and will do greater than these because I am going to the Father” (Jn 14:12). Thomas comments:

“For the strongest sign of great power is when a person does extraordinary things not only by himself but also through others. So he says, he who believes in Me will also do the works that I do. These words not only show the power of the divinity in Christ, but also the power of faith, and the union of Christ with those who believe. For just as the Son acts because the Father dwells in Him by a unity of nature, so also those who believe act because Christ dwells in them by faith” (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1898).

Thomas emphasizes our cooperation with God:

“Christ works in two ways. In one way, He works without us, as in creating the heavens and the earth, raising the dead to life, and things like that. In the other way, He works in us but not without us: the result of this is faith, by which the impious are brought to life. Our Lord is speaking here of what is found in all believers: this is the result which Christ produces in us, but not without us. The reason for this is that whoever believes is producing the same result since what is produced in me by God is also produced in me by myself, that is, by my free choice (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1900).

According to Thomas, our conversion is greater than creation itself:

Thus the Apostle says: ‘it was not I,’ that is, I alone, ‘but the grace of God which is with me’ (1 Cor 15:10). Christ is speaking of this result or work when He says that believers will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, for it is a greater thing to justify the impious than to create the heavens and the earth. For the justification of the impious, considered in itself, continues forever: ‘Righteousness is immortal’ (Wis 1:15). But the heavens and the earth will pass away, as Luke (21:33) says. Further, effects which are physical are directed to what is spiritual. Now the heavens and the earth are physical effects, but the justification of the impious is a spiritual effect (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1900).

Jesus declares, “Whatever you ask the Father in My name, I will do it” (Jn 14:14). Thomas explains: “… believers work by reason of the Son; so He says, in My name, that is, by reason of My name: ‘There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12). For this name is above every name: ‘Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your name give glory’ (Ps 115:1).

It is the Son who does these works: “… the Son Himself does all these works in them and through them: thus he says, I will do it. Note that the Father is asked and the Son does the work, the reason being that the works of the Father and the Son are inseparable: ‘Whatever He [the Father] does, that the Son does likewise’ (Jn 5:19). For the Father does all things through the Son: ‘All things were made through Him’ (Jn 1:3).

Thomas acknowledges that sometimes we ask but we do not receive. Thomas points out that Jesus’ name implies salvation: “The name of Christ is the name of salvation: “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:21). In the Lord’s compassion, He does not grant it because it would not be helpful to us. Even Paul asked and did not receive (2 Cor 12:8).

Thomas notices that Jesus speaks in the future: “I will do it, using the future tense, not the present tense, because He sometimes postpones doing what we ask so that our desire for it will increase and so that He can grant it at the right time: ‘Rain will fall on you when it should fall’ [Lev 26:4]; ‘In a day of salvation I have helped you’ (Is 49:8)” (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1905).

Thomas points out that Jesus says “that the Father may be glorified in the Son”: “This is like saying: I will do what you ask in my name so that the Father may be glorified in the Son, and everything that the Son does is directed to the glory of the Father: ‘I do not seek my own glory’ (8:50). We also should direct all our works to the glory of God: ‘Do all to the glory of God’ (1 Cor 10:31)” (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 1906).

Denis Vincent Wiseman, O.P.

References to Thomas Commentary on the Gospel of John may be found in the translation by Fr. James A. Weisheipl, O.P. and Fabian R. Larcher, O.P., published by St. Bede’s Publications.

Fourth Sunday of Easter – A

The Twenty-Third Psalm speaks of God as “my shepherd.” Jesus expresses the same concern for us when He describes Himself as the “shepherd of the sheep.”

Jesus is also the “sheep gate,” that keeps the sheep secure. St. Thomas Aquinas applies Jesus’ words to all of us as sheep and to those who minister in the Church as shepherds: “If you wish to enter as a sheep to be kept safe there, or as a shepherd to keep the people safe, you must enter the sheepfold through Christ” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1368).

Christ is the door: “…This is the door through which the true shepherds have entered…” (Commentary on John, 1368).

Yet, a door to a sheep pen is low: “… the door, namely, Christ, is small through humility – ‘Learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart’ (Matt 11:29) – can be entered only by those who imitate the humility of Christ (Commentary on John, 1368).

The proud climb into the sheep fold by another way: “They do not imitate Him who, although He was God, became man; and they do not recognize His lowering of Himself” (Commentary on John, 1368).

Christ is also the gatekeeper: “The gatekeeper is Christ Himself, because He brings us Himself… Augustine says, ‘He opens Himself who reveals Himself, and we enter only by His grace’” (Commentary on John, 1370).

Christ is also the shepherd: “Just as sheep recognize the voice of their shepherd due to familiar experience, so righteous believers hear the voice of Christ: ‘O that today you would harken to His voice’ (Ps 95:7)” (Commentary on John, 1372).

The good shepherd calls His sheep by name. God told the Israelites, “I know you by name” (Ex 33:17). The Book of Proverbs instructs: “Be diligent to know the countenance of your flock” (Prv 27:23).

Thomas notes that calling by name “shows his knowledge of and familiarity with his sheep, for we call by name those whom we know familiarly” (Commentary on John, 1374).

The good shepherd goes before his sleep by the example of a good life. Thomas comments that customarily shepherds go after their sheep. Thomas observes: “But the good shepherd goes before them by example, ‘not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock’ (1 Pet 5:3)” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1374).

Christ goes before His sheep: “Christ does go before them: for He was the first to die for the teaching of the truth – ‘If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me’ (Matt 16:24); and He went before all into everlasting life” (Commentary on John, 1374).

Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door” (Jn 10:7). Thomas reflects that the purpose of a door is to lead into the inner rooms: “One must enter into the secrets of God through Him: ‘This is the gate of the Lord,’ that is, Christ, ‘the righteous shall enter through it’ (Ps 118:20)… The shepherds and the sheep are brought into the present Church and enter into eternal happiness (Commentary on John, 1382).

Thomas explains that “those who came before Me” does not apply to the holy people of the Old Testament, who entered through the door, Christ. This is because Christ is the eternal Word, who even acted during the time of the Old Testament:

“It is clear that all the patriarchs and prophets, whom the Christ-to-come had sent forerunners, entered by the door, i.e., Christ. For although He took flesh and became man in time, He was the Word of God from all eternity: ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever’ (Heb 13:8). Indeed, the prophets were sent by the Word and Wisdom of God: ‘In every generation she,’ the Wisdom of God, ‘passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God, and prophets’ (Wis 7:27). Accordingly, we expressly read in the prophets that the word of God came to this or that prophet, who prophesied by participating in the Word of God” (Commentary on John, 1384).

By “those who came before Me,” Jesus means “… independently of Me, without divine inspiration and authority, and not with the intention of seeking the glory of God but acquiring their own, are thieves, insofar as they take for themselves what is not theirs, that is, the authority to teach… (Commentary on John, 1385).

Jesus announces: “If any one enters by Me, he will be saved” (Jn 10:9). Thomas comments: “He shows that the purpose of a door, which is to keep the sheep safe, applies to Himself … The door safeguards the sheep by keeping those within from going out, and by protecting them from strangers who want to come in. And this applies to Christ, for He is our safeguard and protection. (Commentary on John, 1388 -1389).

Thomas recalls the words of Scripture: “For there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12); “We shall be saved by His life” (Rom 5:10).

Jesus declared: “I came that they may have life” (Jn 10:10) Thomas observes:

“… that is, the life of righteousness, by entering into the Church through faith: ‘My righteous one shall live by faith’ (Heb 10:38). We read of this life in 1 John (3:14) that ‘We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren.’ And have it abundantly, that is, have eternal life, when they leave the body. We read below of this life: ‘This is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God’ (Jn 17:3)” (Commentary on John, 1390).

Denis Vincent Wiseman, O.P.

References to Thomas Commentary on the Gospel of John may be found in the translation by Fr. James A. Weisheipl, O.P. and Fabian R. Larcher, O.P., published by St. Bede’s Publications.

Third Sunday of Easter – A

Today’s Gospel, Luke 24: 13-35, takes place in the afternoon of Easter. Two of Jesus’ disciples are walking to Emmaus, a village about seven miles away from Jerusalem. The Risen Jesus joins them but they do not realize that it is Jesus, “their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him” (Lk 24:16).

One of the disciples is identified as “Cleopas.” When the stranger asks what things they are talking about, they describe Jesus as “a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people; how our chief priests and leaders delivered Him up to be condemned to death and crucified Him” (Lk 24:19-20).

The disciples confess, “We were hoping that He was the one who would redeem Israel” (Lk 24:21). Cleopas admits that some women had been to His tomb and found it empty and that a vision of angels told them He was alive.

The stranger responds: “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into His glory” (Lk 24:25-26).

Jesus proceeds to open the passages of the Old Testament that concern His death and Resurrection: “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted to them what referred to Him in all the Scriptures” (Lk 24:27).

When they came to their destination, they urge Him to eat with them: “When He was at table with them, He took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them” (Lk 24:30). Luke tells us: “Their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished out of their sight” (Lk 24:31).  

Why did Jesus appear to His disciples? The Acts of the Apostles tells us: “He presented Himself alive after His Passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking of the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).

Jesus’ self-giving of Himself on the Cross is central to our redemption yet we should not forget the importance of His Resurrection. The Resurrection is not just an attachment to His death. The Resurrection completes the process that Jesus began in dying, as St. Paul declares: “He rose again for our justification” (Rom 4:25).

After rising from the dead, Jesus might have simply ascended to the Father and sent the Holy Spirit. Yet Jesus had a relationship with His disciples that needed healing and was to continue but in a new way.

St. Thomas Aquinas explains that the Resurrection needed to be known: “Christ’s Resurrection is for the common salvation of all so it came to the knowledge of all; yet not so that it was directly manifested to, but only to some, through whose testimony it could be brought to the knowledge of all” (3a. 55, 1, ad 2).

St. Thomas notices that Jesus appeared more often on the first day than later. Thomas thinks the reason was to encourage them to believe: “The disciples were to be admonished by many proofs to accept the faith in His Resurrection from the very outset” (3a. 55, 3, ad 3).

Thomas reflects on Jesus’ reason for appearing to the disciples: “Our Lord appeared to strengthen and comfort them” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of John, 2524).

In His appearances after the Resurrection, Jesus greets the disciples with the word “peace.” St. Thomas reflects: “It was necessary to say this because their peace was disturbed in many ways. Their peace with God was troubled; they had sinned against Him, some by denying Him, others by running away” (Commentary on John, 2532).

Jesus’ appearances enabled the apostles to witness to other disciples that He was risen: “The apostles were able to testify to the Resurrection even by sight, because of their testimony of their own eyes they saw Christ alive, whom they had known to be dead” (3a. 55, 2, ad 1).

When Jesus showed the disciples that the one they were seeing was really Himself: “In order to manifest the truth of the Resurrection, it sufficed for Him to appear several times before them, to speak familiarly to them, to eat and drink and to let them touch Him” (3a. 55, 3). For the same reason, Jesus shows them His wounds (3a. 54, 4).

Thomas has today’s Gospel in mind when he reflects that, at times, Jesus did not immediately reveal Himself:

“Christ’s Resurrection was to be manifested in the same way as Divine things are revealed. Divine things are revealed to men in various ways, according as they are variously disposed. Those who have minds well disposed, perceive Divine things rightly, whereas those not so disposed perceive them with a certain confusion of doubt or error… He appeared in another shape to those who seemed to be already tepid in their faith… as if He were a stranger” (3a. 55, 4).

The disciples did not readily believe that He had risen, even when angels announced it. In today’s Gospel, the two disciples admit that some women had announced that He had risen. Jesus charged them with being “foolish and slow of heart to believe” (Lk 24:25).

The Acts of the Apostles speaks of “many proofs.” Thomas points out:

“[Jesus showed] that it was a true Resurrection… by offering His body to be handled… He shows that it was identically the same body which He had before, by showing them the scars of the wounds… by eating and drinking with His disciples… by replying to His disciples questions and greeting them when they were in His presence, showing that He both heard and saw … in the works of the intellectual life by their conversation with Him and discoursing on the Scriptures” (3a. 55, 6).

Thomas Aquinas maintains that the “proofs” were not based on reason which “would not be efficacious for establishing faith in the Resurrection which is beyond human reason” (3a. 55, 5).

 Rather the “proofs” were from the Old Testament, as see in today’s Gospel: “It was from the authority of the Sacred Scriptures that He proved to them the truth of His Resurrection, which authority is the basis of faith, when He said to them: ‘All things must be fulfilled that are written in the Law, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning Me’” (Lk 24:44) (3a. 55, 5).

The Risen Jesus’ appearances were brief. Thomas notes: “He was not desirous of living with them constantly as He had done before, lest it might seem that He rose to the same life as before” (3a. 55, 3).

Although Jesus would not be present with the disciples as He had been, He would continue to be present with them in a new way, as we can see from today’s Gospel.

While Jesus interprets the Scriptures, the two disciples experience their “hearts burning” within them (Lk 24:32) but they still do not recognize Him. The disciples insist that He join them for a meal. They recognize Him when He breaks the bread.

Raymond Brown, an eminent Biblical scholar, concedes that Jesus may have had a “characteristic way” of breaking the bread but “more is involved.” Brown states that whether “breaking the bread” is used as a noun or a verb, “it is generally thought to refer to a Eucharistic meal” (Raymond E. Brown, S.S., A Risen Christ at Eastertime, 49).

            Thomas Aquinas teaches:

“This sacrament was appropriately instituted at the supper, when Christ conversed with His disciples for the last time… For Christ is Himself contained in the Eucharist sacramentally. Consequently, when Christ was going to leave His disciples in His physical presence, He left Himself with them under the sacramental species…” (3a. 73, 5).

Raymond Brown reflects, “The Christians of Luke’s time had the Scriptures and the breaking of the bread – those same means of knowing the Lord… In the matter of encountering the risen Jesus with faith, a past generation is not more privileged than the present one” (Raymond E. Brown, S.S., A Risen Christ at Eastertime, 50).

Denis Vincent Wiseman, O.P.

References to Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae, give the part of the Summa, the question and the article. In this case, it is the third part of the Summa, questions 55 and 73, and various articles. If the reference is a reply to an objection that had been raised earlier, the reference will offer “ad…” with the number of the objection.