Saturday, February 15, 2014

THREE WISE GUYS: Augustine | Super Inc. Cinema

"You are someone else."

It took me a while to think of a superhero to stand for the second (of three) wise guy. It seems as if Christmastide has flown past, leaving us here waiting for Lent.

But, it's still Epiphany.

The light-bulb's still going off.

Revelation after revelation, Jesus Christ takes this time to show himself to us during this in-between season.

It has not been that long ago that we discussed Saint Walker and Justin Martyr to explain the light entering the world and the world knowing Him through us. But, that was just the beginning.

Around three hundred years after Martyr, Augustine followed in his footsteps.

He had been a scholar for most of his life, becoming an expert at rhetoric and pretty well-off. He knew the "God of the Philosophers" and even set up a community for early retirement hoping to spend the better-part of his life meditating on Reason and Wisdom.

Just like the Watcher, he was content to view the ideas and conclusions laid out before him. He would enjoy separating himself from the world in order to study the world.

But, one day he woke up.

It was a day just like any other, a fellow African came to visit Augustine. He saw a copy of St. Paul’s letters on his friend’s table and relayed stories of the monastic St. Anthony to him.

The story of St. Anthony moved the philosopher, Augustine turned to his friend unable to hide his unrest saying, “What is the matter with us? What is the meaning of this story? These men have none of our education, yet they stand up and storm the gates of heaven while we, for all our learning, lie here groveling in this world of flesh and blood!”

Unable to constrain himself, Augustine immediately left to search for solace in the small garden attached to the house. There, he was driven to extremities such as hammering his forehead with his fists and hugging his knees to suffuse the torment which had erupted within his breast, the internal struggle for his soul.

Finally, he gave way to the tears that washed over him...

Out of the silence, he heard the voice of a child say, “Take it and read, take it and read.” He looked up to see where the sound had come from, but found no speaker.

He attempted to remember what childhood riddle or rhyme this phrase might have come from, but he could remember none. 

As he wiped away some of the tears that covered his face, realized that this “could only be a divine command to open my book of Scripture and read the first passage on which my eyes should fall” just as St. Anthony had.

He rushed back to the book of Paul’s letters, grabbed hold of it, opened it, and in silence read the first passage he saw. As he read, a “light of confidence” poured into his heart and “all the darkness of doubt was dispelled.”

His life knew meaning once again.

But, still, he avoided the priesthood. He knew that he was smart enough and a good enough speaker to be a leader of the church. But, he didn't want to get into that mess. He knew that he was an opportune candidate so he avoided meeting with clergy or announcing his arrival to the congregation.

That is until the hand of God worked against him.

One day, while Augustine was out in the doorway (narthex) of the church, the crowd pulled him in. He was made a priest. And, he began to cry. Augustine was an emotional man and it was not unusual for him to cry. But, as the crowd thought he wept for being ordained as a simple priest instead of bishop, he wept because he did not want the office.

He eventually became the best Bishop Hippo ever had.

He went from living in a fantasy philosophical life to living out his own life.

Like the Watcher he woke up to his world. But, unlike the Watcher, Augustine applied himself.

In the same way, we must apply ourselves to the Gospel that has been preached to us.

We do not believe in vain.

Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures... he was buried... he was raised on the third day... he appeared to his followers after his resurrection. And, as one untimely born, he also appeared to Paul. He was able to take a persecutor of Christians (much worse than just an observer or neutral bi-standard) and make him an Apostle.

The grace of God recreated Paul to who he had to be.

His grace also works on us... not without effect.

Kyle Idleman's new book AHA comes out next month. In it (page 147), he brings up the research of a Catholic philosopher who says, "until there is action, our beliefs and convictions aren't genuine." He then describes three different levels of belief:

Public beliefs: Beliefs we present to others, beliefs we try to get other people to think we believe, but which we don't really believe...

Private beliefs: Beliefs we have that we sincerely believe. But, when those beliefs are tested we discover we don't really believe in those values.

Core beliefs: Ultimately our only true beliefs... backed up by reality. They're not just something we say or feel. But, they are beliefs that actually define how we live. These core convictions are determined by the actions we take.

By the grace of God, Martyr's, Augustine's, Paul's, and even our own beliefs move from the second category to the third. Not by our own power, but by His power of the Gospel shown with the Cross and proved by the Resurrection.

No comments:

Post a Comment