"Nothing if not You, Lord"
Recently, I’ve been hearing the phrase, Non nisi Te, Domine, pop up in many Catholic circles. In English, “Nothing if not you, Lord,” these are the words that St. Thomas Aquinas spoke in response to Our Lord when Christ asked: “You have written well of me, Thomas. What would you have as your reward?” I would like to think that my response would be like St. Thomas’. But, knowing me, if Jesus Himself was to ask me for anything I wanted as a reward, I would certainly be tempted to ask for peace of mind, security, or good health for me and my family. Even in wishing for good things from the Lord, that’s still a desire for material things, created things - things that are not necessarily bad, but things that are still not God Himself.
Oftentimes in our lives, it is easy to recognize temptations for what they are. We can be aware of our temptations to lust after women, to be envious of the good fortune of our friends, or to desire laziness over diligence. We know ourselves and we know the struggles we have. What can be more difficult to pinpoint are our temptations to things that are good, but not God. I’ve heard it said before that the goal of the Devil and all his demons is to get us focused on “anything but God.” Certainly our temptations to vice are easy for us to classify as evil and sinful. But what about spending time with family? What about rest? What about good feelings? What about studying? It’s strange or interesting to realize that there are times we might neglect a relationship with God out of a desire to do good, without understanding the temptation behind it.
Now I want to be clear. I am not condemning being a good father or husband. Nor am I suggesting you should never find rest. It’s important to be aware that what will bring us true joy and lasting happiness is our relationship with God here on earth, and God willing, with Him forever in Heaven. It seems like St. Thomas understood this truth with his request of Our Lord. As a Doctor of the Church and a canonized saint, it is obvious that St. Thomas lived this out. But what about us? How can we discover this?
I’m far from perfect. In fact, I know the times where I’ve been tempted to continue to do things, good things, even if that means I’m neglecting my prayer or ignoring God’s promptings in my life. In fact, I think this contrast between the words of St. Thomas and the goal of the Devil are best seen in the famous scene from Scripture with Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42). So often, I would get annoyed by this story. Why does Our Lord favor Mary? Obviously work needs to be done, especially when hosting Jesus. I’ve always felt bad for Martha. But, as Our Lord exclaims: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things,” when we burden ourselves with doing, even doing good and noble things, often times we can miss what is most important, even when it’s staring us in the face.
Today, I encourage you to reflect on your day. Take stock of your actions. Where was your heart? How might you have avoided a relationship with God today? I know many times throughout my day, I will justify playing hours of video games because I’m listening to podcasts or lectures on spirituality. Or I’ll spend much time watching Netflix because I deserve some rest. As always, virtue will lie in the mean between extremes. We should not busy ourselves with good work with no rest. We should not rest with no good work. Let us be like St. Thomas and Martha who both saw what is the deepest desire of the human heart: union with God.