Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas
St. Thomas Aquinas would propose that, at this University, we’re in the business of knowledge. It may seem crude, but in a sense that’s our “product.” When we consider the nature of this product, or the idea of knowing about something versus knowing of something, it becomes quite a bit more interesting.
Today’s readings remind me of the significance of these distinctions, not only as a believer of Christ but also as a member of a university that commits in its convictions to actively engaging the Catholic intellectual tradition.
Academic knowledge about God is different than faith-filled knowledge of God. Little is more satisfying for me than a good book, documentary, debate or lecture about God. Though, if I am honest with myself, it doesn’t necessarily follow that these academic pursuits help me to grow and deepen my relationship with Christ.
Towards the end of his life, while celebrating Mass, St. Thomas Aquinas received a revelation that was so overwhelming he never wrote or dictated again. He put aside his chief work, Summa Theologiae, which remains incomplete. He said to his secretary and friend, Brother Reginald, “The end of my labors is come. All that I have written seems to me so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me.’”
He characterizes his achievements as “straw” relative to an intimate glimpse into the mystery of God. Straw. How marvelous to feel that satiated in your knowledge of God! To have such an intimacy and peace with God that there are no other questions to pose, nothing more to seek.
It was through engaging my intellect that my faith was awakened long ago. Yet, I still need to sit in front of Jesus in the Eucharist saying over and over “Jesus, I love you” in the effort to convince myself that I do. To truly feel in my bones the deep love he has for me as my Father and to return that love to him as an adoring, obedient child. To know of him so that I stumble and fall less and, instead, “walk as he walks.”
Today’s reading calls me out: Whoever says, "I know him," but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him. Ouch. A liar. But, that’s a fair assessment. I do not want to rest on knowing about Him. I will continue to try to know of him, so that I may better love him.
Jessica Zittlow Aleman
Associate Director, Center for Catholic Studies, College of Arts and Sciences