Monday, November 11, 2013

St. Thomas Aquinas on Miracles and Virtue

So he sends them as he was sent, to preach. Hence Do penance... and as Jesus had begun (above 4:17): "Do penance,": so he commands them. He had begun: "Do penance, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand"; "For salvation is far from sinners" (Ps 119:155), but now it is near through the passion of Christ: "With his own blood he entered once into the holy place, thus securing an eternal redemption" (Heb 9:12). Hence he says, is at hand, namely, through my passion. So it is established in them by partaking of grace: "The whole kingdom of God is within you" (Lk 17:21).

But they could say: How shall we confirm what we say? Certainly by miracles as he did. So he says, Heal the sick... But if someone asks why the Church does not work miracles now, the answer is given that miracles were preformed to prove the faith, but now the faith has even been approved. Therefore, just as a person who formulated one demonstration to prove some conclusion would have no need for another one, so here. Hence the greatest miracle is the conversion of the whole world, so there is no need for other ones. But just as the other miracles were bodily, so every day spiritual miracles are performed, because the spiritually infirm are cured. For the infirm are those tossed about by sin and those prone to sin: "Welcome the man who is weak in faith" (Rom 14:1), and they are healed by the Lord. But those who consent are dead, because separated from God, as it says in Ephesians (5:14): "Awake, you sleeper, and arise from the dead." Likewise, lepers are cleansed; for lepers are those who infect others, because leprosy is a contagious disease, and sometimes they are cured. In 2 Kings (5:27) it is recorded that the leprosy of Naaman cleaved to Gehozi. Furthermore, devils are cast out; for devils are ones who have already committed sin: "They rejoice in doing evil and delight in the perverseness of evil"(Pr 2:14), and as is said of Judas (Jn 13:27): "Satan entered into him." And these are sometimes cured.

But because the apostles could say: "Now we shall be rich; if we perform miracles, we shall have much." This was the reason Simon Magus wanted to perform miracles. But the Lord excludes this, saying, You received without pay, give without pay. It is great to perform miracles, but it is greater to live virtuously. Hence he removes pride from them, because pride can happen in two ways: either from cupidity or from deserts [sic]. For the highest form of pride appears when a person ascribes to himself the good he has.


Source: St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Saint Matthew's Gospel (Super Evangelium S. Matthaei lectura), trans. R.F. Larcher, chapter 10, lecture 1, verses 7-8;

Emphases mine.


Interestingly, St. Thomas's answer to the question why miracles are not performed today as they were in the past suggests the possibility that the Church may again work miracles in the future if the faith were to come into worldwide question.

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