St. Augustine writes the following: “There we shall rest and we shall see. We shall see and we shall love. We shall love and we shall praise. Behold what shall be in the end and shall not end. For what other thing is our end, but to come to the kingdom of which there is no end.”
Everything we do and will do while we are alive can take on so much more meaning if examined and accomplished against the background of this richly poetic statement of St. Augustine in his book, City of God. We are never alone. We are not cut off from each other, or from God – unless we forget and are simply not aware. The key is to keep these truths within our awareness, somewhere in the back of our minds. It’s a struggle to do this, sure, but then that is the point of St. Augustine’s book. If one looks at the world realistically, we see that the struggle to love is always going to be there. But look at the successful end result of this struggle! God’s Kingdom is victorious! The City of God is where we will live! Isn’t this worth the struggle?
By the time you read this, we would have already graduated our eighth grade class. They are and will always be a wonderful group of people – students now and the leaders of tomorrow. I can imagine that when the Roman Catholic Church instituted its school system, it was with the sentiment of St. Augustine in mind. If we were to educate our young people with the deep teachings of Christ in mind; teachings that have the power to transform hearts along with minds, then we would be closer to the final establishment of the Kingdom of God. It’s not that the total struggle is up to them; rather, they would be taking over where we left off. Obviously, when we talk about educating people along Catholic lines of thought, we cannot exclude ourselves from the equation.
Can there ever be a day off from this task? When looking at the world situation and the needs that constantly put themselves before our gaze, who can answer “yes?” What has to be kept in mind is that we are not talking about any specific task that we could take a day off. We are talking instead about the constant concerted effort to be as loving as we can. This is the foundation of our lives, and as such becomes the foundation of the City of God. If we can prayerfully aim our lives to be always in love; to be forgiving, patient, encouraging, with our sight always on God, then the needed tasks will become apparent. But if I am more loving today than I was yesterday, then today I will notice the task, for yesterday I may have been oblivious to it. Spiritual practice allows us to be aware. Sin narrows our vision, and just does not permit the successful accomplishment of needed tasks. That’s why we can talk about “sin in the world.” Over the centuries, peoples’ vision has maintained a narrow focus. And Christ continually encourages us to broaden our vision until it becomes easy to see what loving action needs to be done. When that day comes, the City of God is here.
So, we are left with a paradox of sorts. We are all facing vacation time. Yet, on some matters at least, foremost being the practice of our faith, there can never be a vacation. Our students have graduated, yet there is so much more to learn, for them and for us.
Peace, Fr. Walter