Today we celebrate the feast of St. Albert the Great, a Dominican scholar who also had the distinct privilege of helping to form the mind of another great Dominican, St. Thomas Aquinas. These two brilliant men surely helped to shape scholastic thought and theological development for centuries, even to our present day. Philosophical and intellectual clarity offered a means of looking at the mysteries of our faith in a very logical and systematic way.
Yet, interestingly enough, the readings for this particular Monday during the 33rd Week of Ordinary time, portrays a moment in Jewish history that is far from being characterized as clear and faithful to the religious traditions and beliefs of the Jewish community. In fact, as we see in our first reading for the day, taken from the First Book of the Maccabees, with poor leadership and heretical thinking, many of the people were abandoning their faith in favor of the Gentiles living among them.
They covered over the mark of their circumcision and abandoned the holy covenant; they allied themselves with the Gentiles and sold themselves to wrongdoing. Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, each abandoning his particular customs. All the Gentiles conformed to the command of the king, and many children of Israel were in favor of his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the sabbath.
At first glance, we might be amazed at how such a faithful people who suffered so greatly for their faith could be swayed so easily as to capitulate to the demands of a king who was clearly not representing God and God’s sacred covenant with his chosen people. But then, as we reflect a bit further, perhaps we can see that in our own lifetime and in our own country, we are witnesses of many people who are compromising the truth of their faith for fame, control, and popularity. We are all only too susceptible to the influences and seduction of our modern world. We need only think about the reality of “culture wars” in America today to get an idea of how easy it is to be misled, to go astray, all accomplished through the power of misrepresenting the truth and appealing to personal ambitions and even the anger that binds so many together in our struggling society today.
How can we change all of this misdirection and division, all this animosity and separation that is tearing us apart? It seems to me we have only to go to our Gospel passage for today’s feast this day and meditate long and hard on the words of the blind man who was so privileged to meet Jesus. With him we have to all cry out humbly and sincerely, “Lord, please, let me see!” Only the Lord can give us the sight and the vision that will lead us to the truth that can make America great once again! Only the Lord can guide us to that truth that will set us free.
Fr. Pat Brennan, C.P. is the director of Saint Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat and Conference Center, Detroit, Michigan.