On the one hand, we do not want to die; above all, those who love us do not want us to die. Yet on the other hand, neither do we want to continue living indefinitely, nor was the earth created with that in view. So what do we really want? Our paradoxical attitude gives rise to a deeper question: What in fact is “life”? And what does “eternity” really mean? There are moments when it suddenly seems clear to us: yes, this is what true “life” is—this is what it should be like. Besides, what we call “life” in our everyday language is not real “life” at all. Saint Augustine, in the extended letter on prayer which he addressed to Proba, a wealthy Roman widow and mother of three consuls, once wrote this: ultimately we want only one thing—”the blessed life”, the life which is simply life, simply “happiness”. In the final analysis, there is nothing else that we ask for in prayer.

Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi paragraph 11, “Saved by Hope” (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2007).

My comments: If you are praying, what are you praying for? For both St. Augustine, and Pope Benedict XVI the most important thing we can ask for in prayer is eternal life. Nothing else comes close to the importance of our eternal life with God, so pray for it…

The Sermon on the Mount draws a comprehensive portrait of the right way to live. It aims to show us how to be a human being. We could sum up its fundamental insights by saying that man can be understood only in the light of God, and that his life is made righteous only when he lives it in relation to God. But God is not some distant stranger. He shows us his face in Jesus. In what Jesus does and wills, we come to know the mind and will of God himself.

If being human is essentially about relation to God, it is clear that speaking with, and listening to, God is an essential part of it. This is why the Sermon on the Mount also includes a teaching about prayer. The Lord tells us how we are to pray.

Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration. by Pope Benedict XVI, 2007 Image books, page 128.

In our earthly lives God works in us; in eternal life God will rest in us, and we in God—although God is “always working and always at rest.” ( Confessions 13.37.52) Because God never ceases to do good, we exist and share in his life. He is peace, and we are called to share in his peace. But how can we know this peace who is the Triune God? Only, Augustine answers, through the receptivity of passionate prayer (see Matthew 7:7–8).

Matthew Levering, The Theology of Augustine: An Introductory Guide to His Most Important Works (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013), page 110.

My notes: Professor Levering is commenting on St. Augustine’s “Confessions”, book 13, chapter 37, which is at the very end of Confessions. So our coming to know and experience peace can only happen with our receiving peace from God, through our passionate prayer life.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me a sinner.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, gift to me your grace,
Fill me with your love.
So that I may be a witness to the world,
Of the love that your Sacred Heart has for the world.

For the heart is an expression for the human (passions)—i.e., not only man’s passions but also the “passion” of being human. …the heart is the epitome of the passions, without which there could have been no Passion on the part of the Son. The encyclical cites Justin, Basil, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, John Damascene, exhibiting different variations of the same theme, which it sees as common ground in patristic Christology: … passionum nostrarum particeps factus est (he has come to share in our “passions”).

Joseph Ratzinger, Behold The Pierced One: An Approach to a Spiritual Christology, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), pages 56–57.

(My Notes: Pope Benedict is commenting on the papal encyclical Haurietis Aquas “You will draw water”. In a similar way that we may have a passion for a sports team or a specific movie or a particular wine, Jesus has a passion for us, His brothers and sisters. Jesus is passionately in love with us, His heart is on fire with love for us. His love is so great for us that he came to earth and was born as a child and lived among us, taught and healed us, and then even died a brutal death on the cross for us. A Roman solder pierced His Sacred Heart with a spear. Can we not return some measure of passionate love back to Jesus?

A Priest who is a weekend associate at our parish and who was a professor of mine at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, has his 20th anniversary as a Priest.  So I edited a prayer for him based upon Sirach chapter 45.  Please share this with your Priest on his anniversary.

From his descendants the Lord brought forth a man of mercy,
who found favor in the sight of all flesh
and was beloved by God and man.

2 He made him equal in glory to the holy ones,
and made him great in the fears of his enemies.

3 By his words he caused signs to cease;
the Lord glorified him in the presence of kings.
He gave him commands for his people,
and showed him part of his glory.

4 He sanctified him through faithfulness and meekness;
he chose him out of all mankind.

5 He made him hear his voice,
and led him into the thick darkness,
and gave him the commandments face to face,
the law of life and knowledge,
to teach Jacob the covenant,
and Israel his judgments.

7 He made an everlasting covenant with him,
and gave him the priesthood of the people.
He blessed him with splendid vestments,
and put a glorious robe upon him.

8 He clothed him with superb perfection,
and strengthened him with the symbols of authority,
the linen breeches, the long robe, and the ephod.

10 with a holy garment, of gold and blue
and purple, the work of an embroiderer;

15 Moses ordained him,
and anointed him with holy oil;
it was an everlasting covenant for him
and for his descendants all the days of heaven,
to minister to the Lord and serve as priest
and bless his people in his name.

16 He chose him out of all the living
to offer sacrifice to the Lord,
incense and a pleasing odor as a memorial portion,
to make atonement for the people.

17 In his commandments he gave him
authority in statutes and judgments,
to teach Jacob the testimonies,
and to enlighten Israel with his law.

21 for they eat the sacrifices to the Lord,
which he gave to him and his descendants.

22 But in the land of the people he has no inheritance,
and he has no portion among the people;
for the Lord himself is his portion and inheritance.

24 Therefore a covenant of peace was established with him,
that he should be leader of the sanctuary and of his people,
that he and his descendants should have
the dignity of the priesthood for ever.

26 May the Lord grant you wisdom in your heart
to judge his people in righteousness,
so that their prosperity may not vanish,
and that their glory may endure throughout their generations.

32. A first essential setting for learning hope is prayer. When no one listens to me any more, God still listens to me. When I can no longer talk to anyone or call upon anyone, I can always talk to God. When there is no longer anyone to help me deal with a need or expectation that goes beyond the human capacity for hope, he can help me.

Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi  “Saved by Hope” (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2007).

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