Listening to Jesus

7th March, 2017

St Augustine is one of the most famous saints of the Church. Early in his life he was drawn to the person of Jesus Christ and to the Christian way of life. But for a long time both lust and pride got in the way of his taking the plunge and getting baptised. Eventually, however, both he and his fifteen year old son, born out of marriage but named Adeodatus (meaning Gift of God), were baptised together in the Church of Milan. This happened on April 25th, 387.

Augustine has recorded in his memoirs called the Confessions two religious experiences which transformed his attitudes and his whole way of life. One has to do with a text from the bible, the other with music.

In the first incident, Augustine has thrown himself under a fig tree. He is depressed to the point of tears at the remembrance of his sins. He asks God how much longer can God put up with him. Then suddenly from a house near by, he hears the voice of a child calling out over and over again, ‘Tolle, lege! Take it up, read it! Take it up, read it!’ Immediately Augustine stops crying, his whole face lights up, and he goes to the bible to take and read the first words he finds there. On opening the book his eyes fall on these words of St Paul: ‘Let us conduct ourselves properly, as people who live in the light of day – no orgies or drunkenness, no immorality or indecency, no fighting or jealousy. But take up the weapons of the Lord Jesus Christ, and stop paying attention to your sinful nature and satisfying its desires’ (Letter to the Romans 13:12-13). The message is overpowering. He can resist the Lord no longer.

Some time later his determination to live as a Christian is reinforced by a second experience. This time it’is the singing of the Christians in the church at Milan. He remembers the deep impression the singing made on him. He says to God in his memoirs: ‘I wept at the beauty of your hymns and canticles, and was powerfully moved at the sweet sound of your [people] singing. These sounds flowed into my ears and truth streamed into my heart.’ Through the grace of God coming to Augustine in those two experiences, he was changed him to a new, transformed and glorious life. In our holy communion with him today, then, may he influence us to overcome all fear and indifference, all selfishness and laziness, all harshness and hardness of heart. In fact, to overcome anything and everything that may be stopping us from walking with him along the road to Jerusalem and listening to him along the way!