Monday of Pentecost 5 – Prayer of the Week

Lord Jesus Christ, in Your deep compassion You rescue us from whatever may hurt us. Teach us to love You above all things and to love our neighbors as ourselves; for You live and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Sometime in the middle of the 4th century AD, when Roman power still dominated the whole of the Mediterranean basin, a young man and his friends in north Africa set upon some petty vandalism and theft. They jumped a wall and stole pears from a man’s tree. They were teenagers. This is a story which has been repeated countless times, perhaps even taking its own version in your own life.

We know about this because one of those youths grew up to become a bishop and author by the name of Augustine. He invented the whole genre of literature which we call autobiography in order to tell us that story and much more in his little book entitled “Confessions.” He wondered why he and his friends had done this. They were not hungry. They did not need the pears. They did not sell them. They ended up throwing them away. Augustine wondered why he had done that? Why does a person do the wrong thing?

We note in this prayer that God rescues us from all that would hurt us. The greatest danger to us is ourselves. In a world which often makes a hero of the person who authentically expresses their true self, the Christian cannot but consider that we have been warped and twisted by sin. To express our true self with great authenticity may simply be to express something very broken and awful.

Augustine examined his inner self but used that as an avenue to explore the transcendent God who had made him. We pray that God teach us to love Him above all things and our neighbor as ourselves. Augustine also made that little dictum commonplace in another book he wrote. (He wrote a great deal!) We hear a call from God not to be authentically our sinful selves, but to be remade into the true humanity which God created, a humanity which is focused on God as the source and substance of our lives, and which lives in loving community with all whom God has made. We turn not inward but upward and then outward.