-by Rev Benedict Jonak, OP, English Province
“St Thomas Aquinas says in a neat way that there are three things necessary for our salvation: to know what to believe, to know what to desire and to know what to do.
Of course he is not the first one to stress the importance of knowledge, whether practical or theoretical. The value of knowledge has been key to many philosophical or religious movements. It is expressed in the familiar “Know thyself” of the Delphic oracle or in the saying of Laozi: “To know others is wise; to know oneself is enlightenment.”
What knowledge or understanding does Christianity offer us?
Our Lord, by His being truly human and Divine, teaches us what it means to be truly human. By His words and actions He also reveals to us something of the mystery of God.
In Jn 6:26 Jesus attempts to educate our desires, our motivations, as well as instructs us in what we ought to believe about Himself.
The crowds that followed Christ to the other side of the lake did so because He gave them food:
‘I tell you most solemnly,
you are not looking for Me because you have seen the signs
but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat.’
These words of Christ provoke us to ask some questions about our discipleship:
Why is it that we follow Him? What do we believe about Him and does that what we believe fully inform our daily lives? Feel free to meditate this week on these questions in prayer before the Lord with all honesty.
What you might discover, however, is that there are many reasons why you follow Christ.
Our motivations can be multiple because we find ourselves attracted to the goodness of God for different reasons. Some of us look for peace and consolation of the faith. Others try to make the world a more just and a better place. Some still find in the faith an insightful structure enabling them to manage their family life or the education of their children. All these motivations are good in themselves; they are right and proper, just as working to provide food for oneself and one’s family is right and proper. But there is one motivation, one desire, that needs to crown all these in order for us fully to embrace the discipleship of Christ. That fundamental desire is for God Himself, the living bread. (A sacristan saw Thomas Aquinas late one night kneeling before the altar and heard a voice, coming, it seemed, from the crucifix, which said, “Thou hast written well of Me, Thomas; what reward wouldst thou have?” To which Thomas replied, “Nothing but Thyself, Lord.”) Good answer. Right answer. Best. 🙂
If we truly embrace the knowledge that Christ is our Head in his Body which is the Church, then we need to teach ourselves to long to be ever closer to Him. In the way we think or act, in the way we speak and look at each other, we are called to be Christ-like. This is the new life that St Paul talks about:
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.” Col 3:5-6
“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.
That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in Him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Eph 4:17-24
The life that the Apostle speaks about flows from the revelation of Christ: He is sent, given to us, so that we may flourish as one body. He lives in us – this is what we ought to believe; He is coming back in glory – this is what we ought to desire; He left us His Good News and His own Body and Blood to be shared around the world – this is what we ought to do.”