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Non nisi Te, Domine
Tyler Moon collapsed at his mother’s feet.
The little seven-year-old had just delivered a message to his mother, “Dad said you should call an ambulance.” The little boy and his father had just been involved in a catastrophic four-wheeler accident, about 2 kilometers from their home. His father was suffering from massive internal injuries, and after trying to walk home, finally collapsed on the ground, unable to carry on even one more step.
Tyler saved his father’s life.
And he almost drowned doing it.
There was no water in sight. His lungs weren’t filling with water; they were filling with blood. Tyler walked 2 kilometers with nine broken ribs, a broken arm, and two punctured lungs.
A spokesman for the medivac team noted, “His ribs punctured his lungs as he walked but he didn't stop. Broken ribs are painful but a collapsed lung is extremely painful. How this boy managed his two kilometers is just incredible. It was sheer determination that helped him to overcome the pain.”
Determination? Yes. But determination to do what? To give everything—everything—to save the father that he loved.
“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
There are some religions that promise a kind of earthly heavenly reward—delights of the senses, power, riches. These rewards are like the delights found on earth, but they are without end. Drink, and never be drunk. Eat, and never be full. All your sensible desires fulfilled, all the time.
When I think about such depictions of heaven, I think what children like Tyler Moon would say to such a heaven? What would St. Tarcisius say, that twelve-year-old boy who suffered death blows rather than betray the Lord he carried against his heart? “I am dying, but I have kept my God safe from them.”
Would a little child give his life for the promise of earthly pleasures? No. The child, unlike the sophisticated of the world, knows that his little heart can only be satisfied by another’s heart. A promise of riches? A promise of pleasure? The child would shun all this and cling to the father and mother who love them. This is their heaven. “You can keep all those things,” they tell us, “I only want my mama and papa.”
A word to the wise of this world: look to the joys of a child, and desire what they desire; their desire is the joy of heaven.
What reward wilt thou have?
On July 18, 1323, 700 years ago today, one of the truly wise of the world was raised to the altar. St. Thomas Aquinas was undoubtedly one of the most brilliant minds to have ever traversed this vale of tears. We are rightly astounded by his writing, but sometimes we forget that Thomas understood, to an almost unimaginable extent, what it meant to be a child.
His longtime friend and confessor said of him, “I have always known him to be as innocent as a five-year-old child.”
A five-year-old child knows where their true joy is found.
And so did Thomas.
Thomas’ Summa Theologiae might intimidate us. But if it does, let us look to Thomas’ Summa of the Summa. It’s only one sentence. It’s the answer Thomas gave to Our Lord, Who asked him, “Thou hast written well of Me, Thomas. What reward wilt thou have?"
“Non nisi Te, Domine.”
“Nothing but You, Lord.”
All the Summa’s questions, articles, and objections, are ultimately found in this sentence. This is where Thomas finds his life. This is where he finds his heaven.
Thomas’ answer is one that only someone very wise could give; it is one that only a child could give.
Thomas actually asks for two things in his reply. For, he does not just say, “You, Lord.” Nor is Thomas using the word “nothing” to indicate “merely.” No, I think Thomas is asking to be united to Our Lord, and further, that no other thing beside be granted as a reward. Thomas desired Our Lord, and that nothing else distract him from Our Lord. Thomas knew the words of Our Lord to Martha, “One thing is necessary.”
Thomas chose the One Necessary, which would not be taken from him.
Innocent five-year-old children know that happiness cannot be found in the world’s pleasures, and so did Thomas. He thought this question so important, that “In what happiness consists” is the second question in his Summa. One by one Thomas argues that happiness consists not in honor, fame, power, or pleasure.
Children know, but adults must be reminded.
If we are laying down our lives, it must be for a person.
If we are giving our lives for heaven, then heaven must be a Person. Nothing else will do. “Nothing but You, Lord.”
“Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to the little ones.”
The wise and prudent of this world always follow the path that leads to fleeting happiness. “If only I had more, I would be happy,” they tell us. But if we look to the other path, we will see the little ones.
They aren’t distracted by the things this world has to offer.
They walk along, in spite of beatings, in spite of broken ribs, and punctured lungs.
Follow their path.
Only, try to keep up, for they stop for nothing. They go to be with their father.
Nothing else will do.
Non nisi Te, Domine.