As we continue our journey in 2010, this Sunday’s liturgy calls our attention to the restlessness of our heart which is characteristic of all human beings.
We get this idea as we meditate on the following readings: Isaiah 6:1-2, 3-8; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11.
Think of crawling babies and how they unceasingly observe the signs on the ground longing to have the explanation for all that they see.
Being so small, all they see around is wonderfully too great to be real. In a special way kids are puzzled by one question: “Where do people come from?” so they ask their mother, a question which is rarely well answered.
That is how man grows up as a restless pilgrim on the journey of self fulfillment with that expression of enquiry, of longing to know, of dissatisfaction on so many things including that fundamental quest for his own existence.
The more our heart is restless in the above sense, the bigger the chance that we are asking the right question.
This is beneficial to man as Eric Hoffer tells us in his widely quoted words: It is the awareness of unfulfilled desires which gives a nation the feeling that it has a mission and a destiny.
This is true because human history teaches us that a man; though still restless, may fulfill the object of his existence by asking a question he cannot answer, and attempting a task he cannot achieve.
Ole Rolvaag tells us in his novel Giants in the Earth, that this keeps man trying his best to the last minute.
This problem of man’s restlessness, of aiming higher than he can achieve, has been studied by a number of the great minds of our human race. We may take the example of Eric Voegelin who teaches us in his epigraph for Order and History, that our human consciousness has a kind of ‘luminosity’ which open our attention to the full range of reality beyond our human context.
St. Augustine on the other hand, in the best-known sentence of Confessions, gives the reason of our restlessness: God made us for him and our heart is restless until it rests in him.
And he says this with allusion to Genesis 1:26–27, where we read that God made us in his image which means that we have an innate inclination towards him.
Wherever we lose this kind of inclination therefore, nothing else can satisfy our desire. And it is due to this longing for ‘we-don’t-know-what’ happiness that St Augustine says that God is the source and term, the origin and end, of all human desire.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux in her search for what would match the depth of yearn and ache of her heart’s desire, has triggered off a journey which the contemplative Carmelites and all who follow their spirituality, have been pursuing for over 800 years now seeking to find out what is the goal of human desire.
What the four categories of thinkers do explain to us in their analysis of human nature in history and its paradoxical conscience of perpetual dissatisfied heart desires, is in fact the restlessness that many of us feel at the emotional center of ourselves which we metaphorically call the heart, which may be described as a feeling of uneasy, of unsettledness in body and in spirit.
In our journey through the year 2010, the church teaches us that the restlessness of heart is a force which can do us good or evil.
It may point to man’s unfulfilled desires or vision, hence making him more aware of his mission and destiny. this is true for an individual as well as for a nation.
But it can also drive us on a personal level to be so pessimistic or dissatisfied with what we are and what we have, in a way that can ruin our jobs, our homes and our relationships.
That is how a number of suicide cases begin.
We must have courage so we read in our Sunday readings; a liturgy which presents us Prophet Isaiah and his astounding experience as he encounters God and how he was given to understand his real self immediately.
In the same readings, St. Paul narrates his physical confrontation with God, an encounter which changed his life and made him an effective apostle. As for St. Peter, it was by a divine encounter which resulted in an abrupt recognition of his own condition.
It is by pondering on the restlessness of their heart that Isaiah, Paul and Peter finally made peace with their God. We too may follow their example in our attempt to have peace of heart.
And St Augustine repeats his words to us every time we meditate on this phenomenon: God made us for him and our heart is restless until it rests in him.
It matters a lot how much time we meditate on this human phenomenon because as the saying goes, what we dwell on is who we become.