Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Desire of our Hearts

(Pentecost, Vigil)

For me the spirituality of the Pentecost Vigil, which we celebrate tonight, connects all the way back to the other side of the liturgical year at Advent and Christmas. Just like the season of Advent, the Pentecost Vigil is about the desire of the human heart, our deepest longings, and what we really want and look forward to.

That’s basically what we are as human beings, a desire. We seek. We want. We do everything we do because of the belief, right or wrong, that it will make us happy. But what is it that we really want? At a basic level, the goods of security, comfort, and pleasure. Go a little deeper, become a little more mature, and we realize that we want beauty and goodness. In the end what we want is love, to delight in loving and being loved. Ultimately what we want Love Itself, and this Love is the goodness out of which all of the goodnesses of the creation overflow, the Mystery and Source of all that we call God.

It is God that the heart wants. St. Augustine calls the human being a capax Dei, a “capacity for God.” (De Trinitate, XIV:11) The human person is a desire, a home, and a capacity for God. St. Paul expressed this so viscerally in the second reading tonight: our longing for adoption into God, the redemption of our bodies for which we long and for which all creation is “groaning.”

The trouble is, we are often misguided in our effort to satisfy our desire for God. We reach out for the wrong thing, thinking it will make us happy, but it doesn’t. And this goes for all of our little, distracting personal sins all the way up the great tragedies of violence that scar families, communities and nations. The classic Biblical example of this problem comes to us in the first reading today. The prehistoric people tried to build a tower that would go up to heaven. They wanted to reach up and grab the heaven that they desired. And so it is with us whenever we try to get what our heart wants by grasping. And we see the result of it all: mass confusion. This confusion continues in our own society, when crimes and errors that are clearly against human dignity and goodness have become all but normal and acceptable.

All of our grasping and grabbing for happiness, pleasure, and security is ultimately doomed because we are looking the wrong way. The great gift of Pentecost, the good news of this beautiful celebration, is that the God that we desire is right here. Jesus says in the Gospel tonight, “"Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will flow from within him who believes in me." By his Incarnation among us, Jesus has placed the divine life of God within our humanity, and we join our humanity to his by our faith and our Communion with him here at Mass. Thus the real desire of our hearts is right here, flowing from within. It is the living water of our baptism into Christ.

Therefore, let us turn our attention inwards in prayer, that we might notice this great gift of God. Prayer will teach us how to unseal the Spirit God has placed within us, that He might flow forth from us for the recreation and renewal of the world.

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