28th January. Tuesday in Week 3
Saint Thomas Aquinas, doctor of the Church.
Saint Thomas Aquinas, doctor of the Church.
Thomas de Aquino, (1225-1274), from Roccasecca, near Rome, Italy was a Dominican friar and an influential scholastic philosopher and theologian, who studied under St. Albert the Great. Aquinas had a distinguished teaching career, first in Naples and later in the newly founded Sorbonne university in Paris. Admired for his clarity of thought and dignity of manner, he was given the soubriquet Angelic Doctor (“Doctor Angelicus”). His major writings, the “Summa Theologica” and the “Summa contra Gentiles” were normative for Catholic theology for centuries, and he composed the beautiful liturgical texts for the newly-established eucharistic feast of Corpus Christi. Aquinas died in the Benedictive abbey of Fossanova near Rome, on his way to the Council of Lyons in 1274.
1st Reading: 2 Samuel 6:12-15, 17-19
(David dances before the ark being brought into Jerusalem. The celebration ends with a sacred banquet.)
It was told King David, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.” So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing; and when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. David danced before the Lord with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, an with the sound of the trumpet.
They brought in the ark of the Lord, and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and offerings of well-being before the Lord. When David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the offerings of well-being, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts, and distributed food among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, to each a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins. Then all the people went back to their homes.
Gospel: Mark 3:31-35
(Turning to the crowd, Jesus declares:”whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister”)
Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
Belonging to the smaller and wider family
Fidelity to the will of God, says today’s gospel, makes us family to Jesus. He identified the true disciple, not by by rank or position, talents or financial resources — only by fidelity in the day by day routine of life. Jesus asks us to undertake all we do as though in the context of a worldwide family, with my neighbour as sister or brother, mother or father to me.
This story seems to show Jesus as superceding traditional family ties in favour of the new unity of his followers with him. When his mother and others of his relatives come to him, one might expect him to drop everything else and devote full attention to them. Evidently, there are moments when we should be with our natural family circle and other moments when we turn outward to share our love with outsiders. Jesus gives example of both these moments. Here he is more conscious of his world family; later from the cross in his dying moments he provides for his mother Mary (John 19:25-27). Yet even this last concern for Mary is linked to his relationship with the entire church. Here as elsewhere in the gospels, Mary is representative of the church, the centre of a praying community (Acts 1:12-14).
God summons us at times to loud celebration, as when David, wearing only a liturgical loincloth came dancing before the Lord with abandon, when he and all the Israelites were bringing up the ark of the Lord to Jerusalem. The spontaneity of children can teach grown-ups that such is the Kingdom of God. Children like to be embraced in the close family circle; they can also run through the neighbourhood and wave at total strangers. They are teaching us the meaning of Jesus’ words as he looked out at the wide circle of people from all parts of the land: These are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of God is brother and sister and mother to me.