Aug 28 – Memorial for St. Augustine, bishop, doctor
After investigating and experimenting with several philosophies, Augustine (354-430) became a Manichaean for several years; it taught of a great struggle between good and evil, and featured a lax moral code. A summation of his thinking at the time comes from his Confessions: “God, give me chastity and continence – but not just now.”
Augustine finally broke with the Manichaeans and was converted by the prayers of his mother and the help of St. Ambrose of Milan, who baptised him. Upon the death of his mother, he returned to Africa, sold his property, gave the proceeds to the poor, and founded a monastery. He founded religious communities and fought heresies. His later thinking can also be summed up in a line from his writings: Our hearts were made for You, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in you.
1 Cor 1:17-25
“So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour.”
In today’s readings, we are once again reminded by our Lord to stay awake. This time, we are given the imagery of the ten virgins and the bridegroom, with the virgins who have brought sufficient oil allowed into the wedding feast, while those who did not were left out in the dark and cold.
This is not an easy reading for me. As a convert and someone who continues to struggle with my faith, I have always found this reading cruel and difficult. If I continue to struggle with my sins and slip into temptation, does this mean that I will be left out in the cold eventually? And will all those pious people that I, with great envy, see singing fervently during mass and gaining epiphany after epiphany in their many retreats, be granted automatic entry into the wedding feast of our Lord?
Above all, why can’t I be a little bit more like them? It is not that I enjoy being left out, or that I like the prospect of grinding my teeth in the dark with all the unrepentant sinners. It is not that I enjoy being a sinner. But why is it so difficult to stay on the straight and narrow?
But even as the readings today provide people like me with very grim prospects, the example of St Augustine, whose feastday we celebrate today, gives me much hope. Was it not he who said “Lord, make me chaste – but not yet”? But God would make him chaste and holy in the end anyway.
Brothers and sisters, for those of us who are far from perfect in our faith and spiritual lives, and for those of us who are struggling every day, the great Bishop of Hippo is proof that it is indeed possible for sinners like us to gain entrance into the kingdom of God. The trick is to keep trying.
(Today’s Oxygen by Jacob Woo)
Prayer: We pray Lord for Your forgiveness and redemption, that we may be brought out of our waywardness into eventual communion with You.
Thanksgiving: We are thankful for God’s unceasing love and forgiveness.