Reading the Homilies on the First Epistle of John, I feel as if I am sitting in Augustine’s congregation in Hippo. His sermons are simple, and, like any good preacher, he illuminates his points with simple, everyday illustrations.
In his fourth homily on the first few verses of 1 John 3, he tackles the issue of how we love God whom we cannot see. Our work, our duty as Christians, Augustine explains to those listening, is to cultivate and grow our desire for God. He tells us,
because you cannot at present see, let your part and duty be in desire.
The whole life of a good Christian is an holy desire.
He goes on to illustrate what he means by talking about the stretching of a bag, or a skin, so it can hold more contents. The hope we have as Christians is deferred, he says, and so it stretches us and increases our desire, our longing for God.
This is our life, that by longing we should be exercised.
But holy longing exercises us just so much as we prune off our longings from the love of the world.
To me, this stretching of longing is a long, slow work. It is seeking to regularly give my attention to those things that connect me to the loving presence of God, and so expand my inner longing and “holy desire.” May you, this week, find your heart stretched by hope and filled with a deeper longing for the loving presence of the unseen God.
Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash
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