“The Light of Christ Enriches Our Faith and Illuminates Our Intellects”
by Most Rev. Robert Joseph McManus, S.T.D.
Bishop of Worcester, Massachusetts
Thomas Aquinas College, New England
This morning, we begin our Commencement ceremonies here at Thomas Aquinas College by celebrating the Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit, imploring the Holy Spirit to renew the face of the earth. This morning, I would like to pose one question to focus my reflection in this homily and the question is simply this: What role does the Church, who is our Mother and Teacher, expect us to play in the Spirit’s divine activity of renewing the face of the earth by turning hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, pulsing with the love of Christ, the only Savior of the world? Allow me a few minutes to address that question.
We live in a world that is saturated with massive amounts of information that can be quickly accessed with one strike of a computer keyboard, but at the same time we live in a world that is profoundly lacking in wisdom. The spiritual gift of wisdom is so crucial to living the Catholic life fully and authentically that the Catholic Church lists the gift of wisdom first among the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.
When I go around the Diocese of Worcester confirming my young people, I tell them that if they really want to be wise, then they must learn the true answer to the three most important questions in life: 1) Where have I come from? 2) Where am I going?, and 3) How do I get there? And the correct answers to these three salient questions are constitutive of the Church’s proclamation of salvation. We come from God; we are going home to God, and we do this by encountering the person of the Crucified and Risen Christ and by falling in love with Him and surrendering our intellects and wills to the salvific truth that Christ and Christ alone is our Way, our Truth, and our Life. A person may be highly educated and have all types of degrees after his or her name but if that person does not know the end for which he was created, then that person cannot be wise and that person cannot be truly free.
Thomas Aquinas College boldly identifies itself as an authentically Catholic institution that proudly and effectively introduces its students to the great Catholic intellectual tradition. I firmly believe that the Catholic intellectual tradition can serve as a privileged way of our assisting the Holy Spirit in renewing the face of the earth, because the Catholic intellectual tradition is rooted in the truth that is attainable through the divinely bestowed gifts of faith and reason.
In this morning’s Gospel reading from the Gospel of St. John, we heard these powerful and encouraging words: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you, the Spirit of Truth” (Jn. 14:16-17). These words of Christ spoken at the Last Supper on the night before He died for the salvation of the world beg the question whose answer has an enormous impact for all people for all time and places: What is truth?
The Church has for 2,000 raised and answered that question definitively: The Truth is Christ, the Word made flesh. As the Second Vatican Council teaches: “In reality, it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man becomes clear. Christ the Lord, Christ the new Adam … fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling” (GS, #22).
My dear friends, our culture desperately needs the light of Christ’s Truth, the light of the Spirit of Truth, to dispel the prevailing ignorance and denial of the truth about the human person made in the image and likeness of God, created male and female and called to a life of communion with [other]. In short, the light of Christ enriches our faith and illuminates our intellects, thereby helping to establish a culture of truth that acknowledges that love is more powerful than hate; that truth will always triumph over falsity, and that for those who love God everything works together for good (Rom. 8:28).
In a few minutes we will receive the inestimable gift of our Eucharistic Lord in Holy Communion. It is in the reception of Holy Communion that we receive the Divine Grace to participate in the Holy Spirit’s work of “renewing the face of the earth.” Indeed, it is in the reception of the Holy Eucharist that we come to know existentially the profound theological truth that your patron, St. Thomas Aquinas, taught so beautifully in the hymn “O Sacrum Convivium”: “O Sacred Banquet, in which Christ is consumed, the memory of his passion is recalled, the mind is filled with grace and a pledge of future glory is given to us.”
St. Thomas Aquinas, Angelic Doctor of the Church, pray for us who have recourse to thee. Amen. God bless you.