My first introduction to St. Thomas Aquinas and his theology, I have to confess, did not really move me in any great way to appreciate the tremendous depth of his theological thinking. To me, it seems that all of this writing and talking was simply playing games that had little or no connection to the real world. It wasn’t until I became a Dominican, that I began to appreciate the deep faith of St. Thomas Aquinas, and learning details about his life I came to understand the tremendous benefit that was his thinking and his thought. When I came to understand how what Thomas Aquinas wrote flow directly from his life of faith in his deep love for the Dominican order, that I was able to place his theological understanding in some type of meaningful context. I was able to see its deep connection to the real world.
When the thinking of St. Thomas Aquinas was reduced simply to philosophical gaming, the deep faith and personal touch of his theology was removed. As I think back to these days of learning about St. Thomas Aquinas the first time, I don’t remember hearing anything about the world of Scholastic philosophers during the time in which St. Thomas Aquinas lived. Had that been the case, I might very well have had a deeper appreciation for what St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, understanding that so much of what he wrote came out of of a view of the world that was common to Scholastic philosophers.
The gospel today reminds me of those days when I found St. Thomas Aquinas so boring and pointless. First of all, it does so because the situation is simply so ridiculous. While of course anything is possible, the situation outlined in today’s gospel is simply too far-fetched to believe that it could ever happen. It is being proposed simply as a means to discredit the theological thinking not only of Jesus, but of the Pharisees, both of whom believed in the resurrection of the dead. Secondly, it does not appear that the questions being asked are genuine. The question of the Sadducees is posed in such a way that it is simply striving to reduce the position of Jesus, and the Pharisees, about the resurrection from the dead, in an absolutely foolish and ludicrous like.
I suppose when I think of my own life, there are those moments where I engage in such conversations as well. Where my questions or my comments are not really about gaining a deeper understanding of the Truth, but are rather, an attempt to discredit position with which I may not agree. Or, it may simply be that above all else I want to win an argument. Whatever it is, I do not have the person of the Christ before me, and my concerns are not really about deepening my relationship with Jesus, or being that type of witness which might deepen the relationship that Jesus could have with others.
It is in thinking about St. Thomas Aquinas, that perhaps we can understand more importantly the role of theology. St. Thomas Aquinas is well-known definition of theology is faith seeking understanding, serves as well here. Theology is not simply a mental game that we play in order to occupy our free time. No, theology is an attempt to help us to make sense of the faith that is deep within our heart. Theology is an attempt to help us to make sense of the purpose and meaning of our relationship with Jesus. When we lose sight of this, that the purpose of theology is ultimately to help us to develop a deeper and more powerful relationship with Jesus himself, not only does the faith not grow in our heart, not only are we not a witness to the power gospel living to others, but we render theology so sterile that it makes sense to no one. Rather than inviting people into a new relationship with Jesus, we have the opposite effect: we turn them away.
Today, as we hear this ridiculous situation with the Sadducees, let us resolve ourselves to be ever more open to growing deeper in faith with Jesus, and with the use of theology, to come to a better understanding of the meaning of that faith, and where it will lead us.