I love two little stories about Thomas Aquinas which, whether
they are true or not, should be. In the first, someone asked him where
he had learned all of his theology. He simply pointed to his kneeler,
indicating that it had been through prayer. The second story tells us
that at the end of his life Thomas stopped writing; when asked why, he replied
that in comparison with what God had showed him in prayer the things he wrote
were just so much straw.
Two very appropriate stories for today's Gospel reading, even if in apparent
tension. If the first points to prayer and the personal relationship
to God that it embodies as the real source of the rational and externalized
forms of our belief and practice, the second says that such forms are in the
end so much rationalization of what is at root a personal relationship which
transcends (literally and always) anything we can say about it.
We live our lives caught on the one hand between the forms of acceptable
belief and behavior handed down to us by the faithfilled of earlier days and,
on the other, our own stance before a loving God who continuously invites
us to grow beyond the limits of those forms and behaviors and bear fruit to
feed a world hungry for life. Our choice cannot be merely blind obedience,
nor can it be just common sense; it must be in tension between tradition
and the Spirit, in humble obedience and sacrifice, the fruit of prayer and
a knowledge of God. And a recognition that we will never "get it absolutely
right," but that with God's help we will only get it better.
We are not yet at the level of Thomas Aquinas, but just as he was we are
pilgrims on the Way.