I am not much of a Thomistic Scholar. I did not study philosophy at the oratory nor do I dare enter into the Sunday discussions on questions from the Summa in the “Dumb Oxs” group. However, one Thomistic principle that has helped me in formation is Agere Sequitur Esse: “Action follows from Being”. Or to put it another way, “Who I am will assist me in how I act.” Great principle, but in the journey of formation here at the seminary, we all need to ask ourselves from time to time, “Who am I?” For if we do not know who we are, then we will not know how to act.
During the first few years of my seminary journey, and for many years prior to my entrance into this house of formation, there was a Jesuit Hungarian Bishop who used to call all the seminarians and priests a bunch of “Dirty Beggars”. Bishop Mikloshazy wanted to impress upon us that we are dirty because of our personal sinfulness and beggars because we are vulnerable, dependent on God for everything.
Our readings today bring consolation and hope for us as dirty beggars. Jesus Christ, the Son of God came to encounter the dirty beggar because of a deep abiding love for His creation. King Solomon built a temple for God to dwell and as the place of encounter. In Jesus, God no longer binds Himself to the temple in Jerusalem as the place of encounter and worship. Jesus – the Logos made flesh – steps out of the boat to encounter His suffering people. And it is the dirty beggars in the Gospel today that recognize Jesus as soon as He gets out of the boat. It is the dirty beggars that are vulnerable before God and depend on Him for their healing. They bring their wounds, their sickness, their sufferings to the divine physician and beg that they might just touch the cloak of His garment so as to be healed. It is only the dirty beggar that has faith. It is only the dirty beggar that is amazed at what the Almighty does in his life. For these dirty beggars, how they acted flowed from their identity.
Yet, God does more than just encounter His people. In the person of Jesus Christ, God empties Himself, literally taking the form of a beggar, uniting our likeness to His divinity so that we might be transformed into God’s beloved sons and daughters. It is Jesus Himself who reveals the truth about who we are. For as Christians, we are not only dirty beggars, we are the beloved children of God. And as such, we take our cue on how to act from the beloved Son of God: we have to imitate Christ. And one way we can imitate Christ is to simply receive the love of the Father in the depths of our hearts. We need to make our hearts a monastery, a living temple, a place of communion and discernment where God can find a place to rest and we can be with God.
Agere Sequitur Esse, “Action follows from being”. We are both dirty beggars and children of God. This is the mystery of who we are. And it is in the Mass that we can fully live this reality and enter into that mystery. We can bring to Him, as dirty beggars, our wounds, our sufferings, our work that we have done and offer it to God as a sacrifice. And as His beloved children, we simply receive the love that He offers us in the sacrament of His body and blood contemplating the words that our divine saviour is speaking to us in the silence of our hearts: “This is my resting place forever; here I will reside, for I have desired it.”
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