A substantial part of my intellectual formation happened at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC. Outside their academic building, they have a statue of St. Dominic standing and at his side there’s a dog, carrying a torch in his mouth. In the Dominican tradition there is a legend that on the advent of St. Dominic’s birth, his mother had a vision of a dog carrying a torch in its mouth. This dog would be the Lord’s light to the world. In Latin, you can make a play on words with Dominican/Domini canis, which translates into the Lord’s dog. The Dominicans are the Lord’s hounds, bearing the light of truth into the world.
As Christians, the truth is absolutely critical. Jesus is the way, the TRUTH, and the life. If we don’t know the truth, we don’t know Jesus. If we don’t know the truth, we can’t have a friendship with Him. We can’t have a friendship with a God we don’t know! This is a real problem in humanity. We spend a lot time making up our own thoughts about who God is. We all have our own personal perspectives, but they’re limited. Flawed. Contorted. If we cling to these perspectives, we’re never going to know God as He really is.
This is what’s happening in the Gospel today. Jesus asks “Who do people say that the Son of Man is.” The disciples start sharing all the narrow perspectives that people have: John the Baptist, Elijah, or Jeremiah, but we know that they’re all wrong. Peter gets it right. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus is the Son of God who has come down from Heaven to wipe away our silly and distorted perspectives about God and to replace them with the divine perspective. The wood of the Cross is like the staff in Moses’ hand which strikes the stone of our minds causing wisdom to gush out in abundance. By believing what Jesus has revealed, we break down the limits of human reason and open ourselves to the farthest horizons of the truth.
In Psalm 51, King David prays, “Lord you love truth in the heart, then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom.” The Father loves a man or woman whose heart is full of the truth because His Son is the truth. A person whose heart is full of the truth has a heart full of Jesus. This is why it’s so important to study our faith: to know it, inside and out to the best of our ability. That means reading our Bibles. That means reading the Catechism or coming to adult formation. Studying the faith is a real spiritual exercise which will expand our hearts, opening them up to receive the Father’s love.
To tie this back into St. Dominic, it was because of the truth that Dominic gave up his possessions and the pleasure and security of having a family. He gave up everything he could for the possession of the Truth, and it was because the Truth loved him, that Dominic bore the truth in his mouth to the whole world.