Sister Margaret Palliser shared this reflection with our Sisters and Associates at Mass today.
On this feast day, just how are we to think about our illustrious Dominican brother Thomas in this Aquinas Jubilee Year celebrating the 800th anniversary of his birth, the 750th anniversary of his death, and the 700th anniversary of his being formally declared a saint?
The gospel passage for today’s feast provides a clue.
You are the light of the world.
A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.
Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket;
it is set on a lampstand,
where it gives light to all in the house.
Just so, your light must shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds
and glorify your heavenly Father. [Matthew 5:13-19]
Jesus invites us to consider the role of the lamp—a light to shine in the darkness. It’s a very meaning-filled image in so many ways. Light is a universal symbol for God. (The word “divine” comes from a Sanskrit root meaning “to shine.”) Jesus said: “I am the light of the world” [John 8:12]. And, as today’s gospel tells us, Jesus also said, “You are the light of the world.” Just as the earth’s light comes from the sun, the light in us comes from Christ.
Of course, while today we may light our paths with LED devices, in the time of Christ a lamp was a vessel that held a flame. From the earliest times, Christians recognized the symbolic importance of the candle and its flame. The light of the candle comes at the cost of the melting wax, the candle’s giving its very self to produce the flame. That’s the reason we use candles, the reason that the Paschal Candle is used to represent Christ: the candle’s flame reminds us of Christ’s self-sacrifice, his gift of himself. As followers of Jesus who gave himself for the salvation of the world, we are called to be light for our world—through our own self-gift, our own self-sacrifice.
Thomas Aquinas is a great example for us: he gave himself by using his gifts to their utmost. He clearly reflects the gospel we just proclaimed, a faithful and faith-filled follower of Christ, shining the light of Christ in the world.
So how do we follow Thomas’s example and become a light in our world?
Thomas used his gifts of intellect, eloquence, and poetry to shine light on God’s presence and actions in our world. He taught that our human gifts are a participation in God’s providence. Our gifts are God’s way of taking care of our world. In using the gifts God has given us, we come to embrace our vocation to be the light of Christ in the world.
Each of us has our own special light to give to the world. What gift is mine to give today? While it may be a gift different from those I may have been able to give in the past, the small “self-sacrifice” that may be involved makes it a worthy vessel of Christ’s light:
- the gift of a smile or kind word for someone who may desperately need a pick-me-up;
- the gift of a phone call or note to someone who is lonely;
- the gift of sharing a memory with someone who would appreciate hearing it;
- the gift of a listening ear for someone who needs to be recognized as worthy of our time and attention;
- the gift of our time, talents, or treasure to assist someone who needs a bit of help with a challenge.
Our dear Sinsinawa Dominican sister, Annie Willits, who returned to God on Friday, often urged us to “preach from the pulpit of our lives.” The selfless sharing of our gifts with each other is surely a way to do just that .
So now we gather around this altar to encounter once again the mystery of Christ’s very presence with us in this celebration of the Eucharist—Christ’s gift of himself in the bread and wine which become his Body and Blood, and the gift of his presence in each of us as we once again become his Body and a source of light in our world.
Let us do so, invoking our patron: St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!
– Sister Margaret Palliser, OP
With expertise in Theology, Music, Education, and Liturgy,
Sister Margaret shares her gifts through the Office of Dominican Life.