Sunday, August 23, 2020

The Desire of Our Hearts For "True Gladness"

We ask the Lord our God, our Father, to fill our hearts with His love, to change us, to give us a new life that is beyond anything we could ever have imagined if He hadn't made us for it and called us to it. We ask Him to fix our hearts on that place where true gladness is found.

I want to point out some of the really profound "Collect" prayers that we have on the Roman rite liturgical calendar around this time of year. Last week's and the current week's prayers (i.e. the twentieth and twenty first weeks of Ordinary Time) are great examples.

Here is the prayer from last week:

Here we acknowledge the transcendence of God, and also the transcendence of our own destiny. Our God is "above all things" and has destined for our fulfillment "good things which no eye can see," the joys of communion with Him. We have a supernatural destiny which is beyond ourselves while also made accessible and intimate to our humanity by God's loving initiative, His grace in Jesus Christ.

Grace engenders a relationship of love: God loves us in such a way that we are empowered to love Him and "attain" His "promises." He reveals and gives this new life to us through Jesus, who is the meaning of our existence and all of creation. Here "we pray" to God our Father, we ask Him to "fill our hearts" with His love so that we are moved and changed and transformed that love. His love "warms" our hearts, engages them, forges within them a new way of experiencing and responding to reality and to Himself. Grace enables us to love Him "in all things" as well as "above all things," so that in this world in which we live we already begin to find Him and be drawn by Him.

Jesus who has taken our humanity wants to transform the depths of our hearts so that through His love our "human desire" will surpass itself. We are called to 'lose ourselves' not in some nihilistic way, but with the confidence that in communion with the Trinity we will enter into a mysterious 'beyond' in which nevertheless we will also 'find ourselves' and the goodness of all things in a super-eminent way.

God's grace has already called us and prepared this destiny for us, which we can only attain through a loving and hopeful faith in Jesus. In the Church's prayer we ask for the grace that enables us to grow in this living faith, to move forward in the journey to our fulfillment.

The prayer for the current week is similarly rich in the way it touches upon the essentials of freedom, grace, and destiny:

There is a beautiful reference here to the communion of the Church, in the sense of the unity we share in moving forward together toward a "single purpose," a unity which God has already given us through baptism into the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus. Here too, we are asking to grow on the path toward fulfilling His purpose. We ask God to give us a greater measure of love for His will and desire for His promise, so that faith and hope may also be strengthened and focused on "that place where true gladness is found."

Again and again we see that the "hinge" of the Collect each week is found in words such as "grant us, we pray" or some similar form of asking God - in His love and mercy for us - to give to us that which is the foundation and the vitality of our gift of ourselves to Him, in love.

This corresponds to His grace working in us, His Holy Spirit transforming us through Jesus Christ our Lord.