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"Non nisi Te, Domine"

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)  |  Br Toby Lees OP,  just ordained as deacon today (30 July 2017), gives his inaugural sermon on Torch, on desiring nothing except Christ.    

If one day whilst having a little tidy up you were to come across a dusty old lamp, and upon giving it a quick rub down, the proverbial genie were to pop out of the lamp, and, sadly, with this not being a Disney film, were to grant you only one wish: what would you wish for?

In our first reading, the Lord asks Solomon what he desires, and Solomon, conscious of his responsibilities to those whom he leads, wisely and humbly says, ‘Give your servant a heart to understand how to discern between good and evil, for who could govern this people of yours that is so great?’ The Lord, pleased by Solomon’s request grants it to him.

The first two parables in today’s Gospel are concerned with what we recognise as being most precious. On the face of it they are very similar. In each case one thing is recognised as being worth everything: in the first case the treasure in the field and in the second the pearl of great price.

However, the way by which the one most precious thing is discovered differs, and St Gregory the Great comments how in the first case the treasure seems to have been stumbled upon, whereas in the second, the pearl seems to have been hard sought. In this we have a parallel with that greatest of gifts, the Faith. Whilst in no sense undermining the utterly gratuitous nature of faith – it is sheer gift – the means by which the gift is realised varies enormously from person to person. But what I suggest is the really crucial point in these parables is the reaction to the enormity of the gift and what is required to accept it. God is not just one more thing in our lives, the icing on the cake: he is the cake, the icing, and the cherry on the top! No worldly attachment is worth what God offers. This is what the rich young man could not grasp – he could not bring himself to give up everything to receive the one thing that truly mattered – and so he went away very sad.

For most of us there is probably a fear that if we loved God whole-heartedly that somehow we might love others less, or life might be less full. But the reality is that when we entrust ourselves completely to God, we love more not less, we enter into the source of all love and we begin to love as God loves, which is so far beyond our often limited conceptions of what it means to love. We enter into the love which can transform the brutality of the Cross into the single greatest act of love, one which reverberates through all time.

Pope Benedict in his inaugural homily as Pope put it beautifully when he said: 

If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation. And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life. Amen.

St Thomas Aquinas once wrote: ‘The life of the human being consists in the affection which principally sustains a person and in which that person finds his greatest satisfaction.’ We need to be honest with ourselves: ‘Have we let Christ into our lives? Is He the beating heart of my being, or does He remain a pleasing ideal? Toward the end of his life, Saint Thomas was praying in a chapel, and Jesus himself spoke to Thomas from a crucifix hanging on the wall. Jesus said: “You have written well of me, Thomas! What do you desire?” To which, Thomas replied, “Non nisi te, Domine.” [*] Only you, Lord. In humbly asking for this one thing, St Thomas knew full well that he was asking for everything. And the beauty of it is that this gift has already been given to each of us. When we gaze at the Cross like Thomas, we see that we need no magic lamp or genie to receive the pearl of great price or the treasure hidden in the field, all we have to do is say, ‘Yes, Lord’ as we approach Him in His complete gift of self to us in the Eucharist. The challenge is to mean it.

* "Non nisi Te" is the episcopal motto of Malcolm McMahon OP, Archbishop of Liverpool, who ordained Br Toby, alongside Br Samuel Burke OP and Br Luke Doherty OP to the diaconate this Sunday 30 July. Please pray for them, and we welcome them to our rota of Torch preachers!

1 Kings 3:5. 7-12  |  Rom 8:28-30  |  Matthew 13:44-52

Photograph by Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P. of the apse mosaic in Sant'Apollinaris Nuovo in Classe, near Ravenna, which shows Christ surrounded by pearls. 

Toby Lees O.P.

Br Toby Lees O.P. Fr Toby Lees is currently assigned to the Priory of San Clemente in Rome for reasons of study. He is completing his STB at the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas ("Angelicum") in Rome.  |


Webmaster commented on 27-Jul-2017 04:19 PM
A sidelight on this: it is interesting to contrast the Fall, in which *knowledge* of good and evil is stolen, if you like, from God; and Solomon's request as we see it this Sunday, in which he asks for the *ability to discern* good and evil.

Perhaps then the consequence of the Fall is knowing both good and evil, but being unable to distinguish well between them - we can do that only with wisdom, a gift from God. And it is only later with Christ, the full gift of God's grace, that we are fully able to turn towards the good and away from evil.
Anonymous commented on 30-Jul-2017 07:27 AM
Blessings on you Brother and on all the others ordained today. May you continue for many years in good health and happiness to provide the wonderful nurture that you clearly demonstrate here
Anonymous commented on 30-Jul-2017 01:48 PM
Blessings on your ordination. Will be praying for you and for your perseverance in the years ahead.
An excellent sermon, one to feed the soul and the mind.

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