Ateneo Latin Mass Society: Homily for the Memorial of St. Augustine of Hippo by Fr. Tim Ofrasio, SJ
August 27, 2011 3 Comments
HEART ON FIRE
For the Memorial of St. Augustine of Hippo
Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Sir 39, 6-11; 1 Jn 4, 7-16; Mt 23, 8-12
by Fr. Tim Ofrasio,SJ
Latin Mass (Ordinary Form) at the Ateneo de Manila High School Chapel of the First Companions, 25 August 2011
“Nos fecisti ad te et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te.”
“Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”
“Nilikha Mo kami para sa Iyong Sarili, O Panginooon, at hindi palagay ang aming puso hangga’t hindi ito bumabalik sa Iyo.”
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
You probably recognize this beautiful quote; it is from Book One, chapter One of the Confessions, written by the saint we honor in this Mass today. It aptly summarizes our deep human longing to find perfect contentment and satisfaction that no one and nothing in this world can ever give us. Saint Augustine felt this inner restlessness in the 4th century; we still feel it now in the 21st century. It is the soul tending towards God.
In just two days, on August 27, we will remember St. Monica, and the day after, on August 28, her son, St. Augustine: their testimonies can be of great consolation and help for many families also of our time.i
Monica, born in Tagaste—in present-day Souk-Arhas, Algeria—of a Christian family, lived her mission of wife and mother in an exemplary way. She helped her husband Patricius to discover little by little the beauty of faith in Christ and the strength of evangelical love, capable of overcoming evil with good.
After her husband’s premature death, Monica dedicated herself courageously to the care of her three children—two boys and a girl—among them Augustine, who in the beginning made her suffer with his rather rebellious temperament. As Augustine himself would later say, his mother gave him birth twice; the second time required a long spiritual labor, made up of prayer and tears, but crowned in the end by the joy of seeing him not only embrace the faith and receive baptism, but also dedicate himself entirely to the service of Christ.
How many difficulties there are also today in family relationships and how many mothers are anguished because their children choose mistaken ways! Monica, a wise and solid woman in the faith, invites them not to be discouraged, but to persevere in their mission of wives and mothers, maintaining firm their confidence in God and clinging with perseverance to prayer.ii
As to Augustine, his whole life was an impassioned search for truth which initially led him to teachings that intoxicated him and gave him great acclaim and human wisdom, but which nonetheless left him empty and restless deep inside. He felt within himself an unnamable void that needed to be filled. In the end, not without a long interior storm, he discovered in Christ the ultimate and full meaning of his life and of the whole of human history. In adolescence, attracted by earthly beauty, he “fell upon” it—as he says honestly (Conf 10, 27-38)–-selfishly and possessively with behavior that caused some sorrow in his pious mother.
But through a toilsome journey, thanks also to her prayers, Augustine opened himself ever more to the fullness of truth and love, to the point of conversion, which occurred in Milan, under the guidance of St. Ambrose, the great bishop of Milan.
Thus Augustine remains for us as model of the way to God, the supreme truth and good. Tardius te amavi”, “Late have I loved Thee,” he wrote in his famous book of the Confessions, “Late have I loved Thee, O Beauty so ancient yet ever so new, too late have I loved Thee… For behold You were within me, and I outside; and I sought You outside… You were with me and I was not with You… You called and cried to me and broke open my deafness: And You sent forth Your beams and shone upon me and chased away my blindness” (ibid.).
It was only then that he realized what the emptiness and restlessness he felt inside himself meant: it was the absence of God in his life, and when he found Him at last, he could exclaim, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”
This is the reason why one image of St. Augustine depicts him with his right hand raised to heaven, holding a heart—his own restless heart—on fire. It is also the symbol of our own innermost desire: to be one with God. For, isn’t it true that we all somehow feel a restlessness deep within that could not be satisfied by material goods nor be assuaged by our achievements? There is always that hankering for something more. And so we spend our life running after that undefinable something more, which Augustine aptly describes as “you were within me, and I outside; and I sought you outside …” Even in our prayer, we feel that God is not within us; He seems to be outside of us.
Marahil, ang dahilan kung bakit ganito ang nararamdaman natin ay sapagka’t hindi pa natin ganap na naisususko ang sarili sa Kanya; hindi pa tayo ganap na namamatay sa sarili tulad ng dapat maganap sa nagnanais sumunod sa Kanya. We find it difficult to die to self because it is quite harrowing to have our selfish heart torn by the roots and have it replaced by a heart that lives for God alone. In other words, we have not yet been given the grace to experience true conversion.
Brothers and sisters, we will probably spend our lifetime hankering for this perfect contentment and peace longed for by our heart. It calls for conversion, and we cannot will it; it is only God’s grace and mercy that will do it. But at least, we could desire it, and in this Eucharist, let us—through the intercession of St. Augustine and St. Monica—ask for the grace to desire it.
Praised be Jesus Christ.