May 22, 2016
Introduction: "For thou hast formed us for thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in thee” (Saint Augustine of Hippo, The confessions of Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo). Augustine begins his work by pointing out we are made for a relationship with God. One of the foundational understandings of the Trinity is that before anything was created there was God and God was in relationship with himself. This relationship was believed to be so passionate that God created all that is in order to share this love with others.
I) In Jesus’ departing words to his disciples he shares with them a vision of how this love is shared with humanity. Even though Jesus will no longer be physically present he will not abandon them. Instead he will send them the "Advocate,” the Holy Spirit who will fill them with his presence. Augustine in his work talks about God filling his Creation with his presence.
II) A concern Augustine raises is that if Creation is broken does God "leak" out of it and so is ultimately destroyed? In other words, can sin destroy God by its ability to destroy His creation? This after all is the ultimate question one must ask at the moment Jesus is being handed over to death!
III) The answer Saint Augustine gives is a resounding No! God is not contained by His creation. He does fill it. Augustine goes so far as to proclaim that God fills his creation to the extent that if there is a hell God is there also. For nothing can exist without God’s active participation. The challenge we face is to enter into this relationship with God by first accepting that he is within us. Our task is not only to recognize God’s presence within ourselves but to nurture this gift by our response to God’s being within us. Augustine then goes back to examine his own childhood and how even as an infant God was there sustaining his life using others as conduits to give him his sustenance. Yet even as an infant sin was present. By studying other infants Augustine saw the focus on self and to him this is sin. An infant sees itself as the center of the universe. As we grow and learn we begin to see that this is not so. Instead we begin to learn the task we have to learn in order to be fully human, that of sacrificial love and caring which is, after all, the essence of God’s love for us! As Jesus shared with his discipes, this love will be lived out by his giving us an Advocate to guide us which is the expression of God’s love for us.