“Domine, non nisi Te.”

04-10-2022Weekly ReflectionFr. Chris Axline

Towards the end of his life, one of my favorite saints, St. Thomas Aquinas, was praying in front of a crucifix when Christ spoke to him, praised all his great writings given to the Church and promised Thomas any gift of his choosing. Thomas replied back “Domine, non nisi Te” (Lord, nothing but you) indicating that he already had everything he needed in that experience with the Lord. Thomas wanted only the love of God.

That’s a powerful statement as Aquinas is one of the pre-eminent theologians of the Church and a brilliant theologian known for his writings and academic works. Yet, there’s also something so profoundly simple in his statement: “Domine, non nisi Te.”

This story’s always fascinated me and I find myself regularly praying while gazing upon a Crucifix. I usually find myself much more focused and slowing down while praying in this way; face to face with God’s Love for me. There’s something beautiful and attractive about the Cross, something that captivates and inspires. The Cross reveals the depths of God’s Love for each of us. That’s why the Crucifix is given such great prominence in Catholic Churches as we see in the Cross, nothing sorrowful or depressing, but hopeful. The Cross is a reminder that God suffered for us, and gives meaning to our daily life. That, I’m convinced, is why Aquinas was so moved whenever he prayed that way, and it’s certainly what ensnares me.

In the Cross too, we find great hope and that is why the Church invites us to reflect on His [Christ’s] death today, Palm Sunday. We start this most sacred week reflecting on the Passion so that we can enter more fully into the beautiful liturgies of the Triduum and finish off Lent confident in the power of Redemptive Suffering and His Redeeming Love. Palm Sunday is a powerful way to enter this most sacred week, the holiest of the entire year, and a great reminder for us of our sinfulness and the price He paid to set us free.

What captivates me most though about this week, and the story of Christ’s passion, is how quickly the crowd turns against Him. At the start of the week (Sunday) they’re shouting “Hosanna” in praise and glory. Five days later those shouts of “Hosanna” turn to “Crucify Him!” How fickle the crowd; how fickle the human heart; how fickle my heart! Admired one day, betrayed the next. There’s something relatable in Our Blessed Lord’s Passion: betrayal, suffering, abandonment, isolation, but also a profound experience of love, and joy. How can the Cross be joyful? Joy doesn’t always feel good. Joy rather, derives from the ability to rest in the Father’s Will. So, even though it isn’t pleasant (and certainly doesn’t feel good), Christ mounts His Cross filled with joy that that is what the Father wants Him to be. Love, a complete giving of Himself for us, keeps Him on the Cross. Holding nothing back, He gives His life to set the paradigm of what authentic love looks like. Love that’s loyal and true to the end.

Christ though, also knows that this isn’t the end of the story. There’s one word yet to be spoken, “life.” Three days later, the Word comes forth clad in divine splendor. There's the great power of the Cross, a lesson for us that God always has the final word. That He shows His power by entering into sin, death, and the messiness of human life in order to give it purpose and meaning. On this Palm Sunday therefore, let us be stirred to a greater hope, fervent love, and more zealous faith in Christ who enters into His final earthly days in order to set us free. Let us walk with Him so that we may come face to face with His Love poured out for us. We adore You Christ, and we praise You, for by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world. Ave Crux Spes Unica (Hail the Cross, our only hope)!