St. Augustine is one of the greatest minds of the Church, especially in the first millennium since Jesus Christ. The Confessions is a classic work of his conversion and is a wonderful book to read, this summer, or anytime (the translation by Maria Boulding, OSB is wonderful). It was a book very unusual for his time, which was 397 AD when he started to write it, ten years after he was baptized.
In The Confessions one can also see the conversion of Monica, his mother, who had worldly ambitions for her son in addition to the holy ones. Saints are not perfect. In fact Augustine prayed to the Lord, ‘Make me chaste, but not now.’ So he also had a sense of humor and realized that his struggle to live a Christian life was not possible without God’s help.
In Book X, 38, of Confessions reflecting on his life he writes: “Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you!…You were within me but I was outside, seeking you….You were with me, but I was not with you.” The townspeople of Nazareth in (Mark 6:1-6) could have said the same thing. They were good Jews going every week to the synagogue and probably listening to the Word of God twice a week. And yet they rejected Jesus Christ. They were faithless even though they were impressed by his words. They did not see God acting in him. Poor people.
The humanity of Christ shines as he remains in this small town for so many years only doing his work as a carpenter, a builder, with his father and traveling to a town some distance away and staying during the week and then returning for the Sabbath, for thirty years. How impressive! It gives us a lot to ponder. The Son of God would remain unknown for so long a time and only in three short years did he do his public mission. It can give us hope when we look at our lives, and our situation, and think, what is the point of this?
People today, and then, want to see something spectacular: someone with advanced degrees, one who has a lot of wisdom or power, or some fancy phone or vacation that will distract us for a few weeks. Jesus is from a humble town of two hundred people, and he remains there for most of his life.
God loves our hiddenness and anonymity; he becomes one like us and he pitches his tent among us. But the people with their lack of faith reject him. They are unable to see God in him and so his hands are tied, he cannot work any miracles among them. The mission of Jesus, and our mission, is to unite heaven and earth. The humble place where we live and the kingdom of Heaven where we are going need to be joined.
Don’t miss the action of God in your life. He speaks in the Mass each week, in the readings, in the music, and in the preaching, and also in the events of our life. A parishioner was saying that a customer came to his office and we speaking openly about a difficulty, which he himself had. He said it was as if God was speaking to him through this customer, and he had the courage to say, ‘Why not go to church?’ And the customer said, ‘What did you say?’ Perhaps not believing the words, or not hearing them. He repeated them again, somewhat louder the second time, and the customer nodded his head in agreement.
God presents many opportunities to speak and help people in our daily life. Don’t miss them or think this is beyond me. This is your mission: to bring God to the world that is fleeing from him, to bring an answer to people whose suffering is overwhelming them. It is not that you need to solve their problems but to listen to them, to be present for them, and to invite them. Come with me to the church. This was my experience and God is helping me…my problems are still there but somehow I have peace.
St. Paul had a thorn his whole life and for sure this is what helped him to be such a great apostle. God allows these thorns in order to draw out a greater good, something that is more necessary in your life. My grace is sufficient for you, He tells Paul. God gives you and I the courage to face the trails of life. Our very weakness will help us to rejoice at the strength of God. It will lead us to depend more on God. Our failures and unfulfilled plans will lead us to exclaim: When I am weak, then I am strong, for Christ is with me.