St. Thomas Aquinas resolutely promotes mercy, Pope Francis says

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Thomas Aquinas
Carlo Crivelli, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — When it comes to inspiring people’s actions, Jesus knew that being an example to others is more important than “a flood of words,” Pope Francis said.

Jesus washing his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper “is undoubtedly an eloquent symbol of the Beatitudes proclaimed by the Lord in the Sermon on the Mount and of their concrete expression in works of mercy,” the pope said in a written message March 7.

“With this gesture, the Lord wanted to leave us ‘an example so that you may do as I have done,'” he wrote in the message to experts and scholars taking part in a workshop organized by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

Anniversary of St. Thomas’ death

To mark the 750th anniversary of St. Thomas Aquinas‘ death, the academy organized a meeting March 7-8 to discuss the saint’s work on natural law and social ontology, that is, his understanding of social institutions, norms, roles, groups and relationships, and how they interact or influence one another. His thought has been “a main inspiration of the social doctrine of the Church,” the academy said in its workshop program.

As objects of God’s love, men and women become in turn subjects of charity in the service of justice and the common good, the pope wrote. “It is this greater dynamic of charity received and bestowed that has given rise to the Church’s social teaching.”

St. Thomas “resolutely upholds the priority of works of mercy,” he wrote. “We worship God by external sacrifices and gifts, not for his own profit, but for that of ourselves and our neighbor.”

“In these years of my Pontificate I have sought to privilege the gesture of foot washing, following the example of Jesus who at the Last Supper took off his cloak and washed his disciples’ feet one by one,” the pope wrote.

“Indeed, as Aquinas teaches, with such an extraordinary action, Christ ‘showed all the works of mercy,'” he wrote. “Jesus knew that when it comes to inspiring human action, examples are more important than a flood of words.”

Carol Glatz

Carol Glatz writes for Catholic News Service.