Summary: Like Augustine, we must integrate into our lives the need to see God's vision and to hear God's call.
Thursday of 3rd Week in Course 2014
The vision of God is always broader and deeper than any plan of a human. King David was in a really good mind when he wrote this prayer of thanksgiving to God. Remember that Saul, his predecessor, had wanted a dynasty, but he turned against God’s plan and lost all of his progeny. David had to realize that his leadership was always in jeopardy. Most of the Israelites had accepted him as king only because he was the last man standing. There was always unrest in his family because he had multiple sons by several wives. Ultimately, after the promise of a dynasty, one son killed another and then rebelled, taking most of Israel with the rebellion. When he was killed, an uneasy peace settled over Israel. During the reign of Solomon, there was another rebellion, and in David’s grandson’s time, the kingdom split in two. After a few hundred years, both kingdoms were overthrown and the dynasty seemed to be broken.
That is why the words of the angel to Mary were so important, and why Joseph, a descendant of David, had to be her spouse. Jesus, son of God and son of Mary, was also the acknowledged son of Joseph, son of David. That rule, God promised, would never end. And so it is. The Church, constantly vexed, as the hymn says, “from within and without,” continues in heaven, on earth, and in that state of purification we call Purgatory. The Light of Christ, through the message of the Church and the sacraments, continues on the lampstand to enlighten everyone in God’s house. The love we experience on earth, in our human family and the family of the Church, are inspired by that Light.
The popes write, “Once we discover the full light of Christ’s love, we realize that each of the loves in our own lives had always contained a ray of that light, and we understand its ultimate destination. That fact that our human loves contain that ray of light also helps us to see how all love is meant to share in the complete self-gift of the Son of God for our sake. In this circular movement, the light of faith illumines all our human relationships, which can then be lived in union with the gentle love of Christ.
“In the life of Saint Augustine we find a significant example of this process whereby reason, with its desire for truth and clarity, was integrated into the horizon of faith and thus gained new understanding. Augustine accepted the Greek philosophy of light, with its insistence on the importance of sight. His encounter with Neoplatonism introduced him to the paradigm of the light which, descending from on high to illumine all reality, is a symbol of God. Augustine thus came to appreciate God’s transcendence and discovered that all things have a certain transparency, that they can reflect God’s goodness. This realization liberated him from his earlier Manichaeism, which had led him to think that good and evil were in constant conflict, confused and intertwined. The realization that God is light provided Augustine with a new direction in life and enabled him to acknowledge his sinfulness and to turn towards the good.
“All the same, the decisive moment in Augustine’s journey of faith, as he tells us in the Confessions, was not in the vision of a God above and beyond this world, but in an experience of hearing. In the garden, he heard a voice telling him: “Take and read”. He then took up the book containing the epistles of Saint Paul and started to read the thirteenth chapter of the Letter to the Romans.28 In this way, the personal God of the Bible appeared to him: a God who is able to speak to us, to come down to dwell in our midst and to accompany our journey through history, making himself known in the time of hearing and response.
“Yet this encounter with the God who speaks did not lead Augustine to reject light and seeing. He integrated the two perspectives of hearing and seeing, constantly guided by the revelation of God’s love in Jesus. Thus Augustine developed a philosophy of light capable of embracing both the reciprocity proper to the word and the freedom born of looking to the light. Just as the word calls for a free response, so the light finds a response in the image which reflects it.”
We all experience this kind of challenge in our lives. We have to grow Christ’s eyes, so we can see God’s immense plan. That’s a vision that can help us see, for example, how our pain can be salvific, if united to Christ’s. But we also must continually listen to His call, so we can respond to the immediate challenge of a world that thirsts for both word and vision.