Union with Christ
"... but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10.42
In the middle of a career packed with ground-breaking theological insights and fruitful engagement in public discourse about faith and morality, Thomas Aquinas put down his pen and shut his mouth. He even left what was destined to become his "opus magnum" Summa Theologiae unfinished. Why?
The answer may lie in the trajectory of his life, which divides into three phases: following Jesus into evangelical poverty, engaging with the world through teaching and preaching, preparing for heaven through union with Christ. As Mary discovers in the (in)famous dispute with her sister Martha at Bethany when Jesus comes to visit, the Lord's presence deserves our full attention to the extent that even necessary and worthwhile activities like housework and careers must take a back seat. Is this what happened to Thomas Aquinas?
We may never know for certain but that degree of commitment is consistent with the way he lived the rest of his life. The dilemma for us is that nobody possesses enough fore-knowledge to arrange our lives as neatly as Aquinas' three phases (and it must be admitted that there is no evidence that the threefold pattern is anything other than what scholars have imposed upon him through academic observation). In which case, through we are free to plan we should be wise to hold such schemes lightly, recognising that we need to be ready to meet our maker at anytime - whether in account of our death or his return in glory.