The opening line of a Prayer attributed to St. Augustine, consisting of twenty-two Petitions, reads: ‘’Lord Jesus do this grace bestow, to know myself and Thee to know.’’
Jesus, as we know, daily reveals himself to us in many and various ways; primarily through the Scriptures, personal prayer, communion with others and with the natural world. St. Augustine most undoubtedly received some of the grace and knowledge he longed for through these channels but he most probably desired deeper experiential knowledge.
We know from Luke (1:1-4) that Luke himself was anxious to tell the story of Jesus exactly as it had come down from eyewitnesses and ministers of the word. St. Augustine would have read in the Gospel of Luke (3: 21-22), ‘’that when all the people had been baptised and while Jesus, after his own baptism was at prayer, the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily shape, like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘’You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’’
In Luke (5:4-6) St. Augustine would have seen Jesus as the One who can be trusted even when the odds seem to be against trusting Him.
‘’When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘’ Put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’’ And Peter answered, ‘’Master we worked hard all night and caught nothing but if you say so, I will put out the nets.’’ And when they had done this, they netted such a huge number of fish that their nets began to tear…’’
We could say that it was Peter’s faith in Jesus which ‘’called forth’’ this miracle and also brought about a deepening of Peter’s relationship with Jesus.
The Evangelist Luke knew that we can’t be the person we were created to be without being in relationship with Christ Jesus. St. Catherine of Siena also believed this to be true. We are told that she once said to God , ‘’When I gaze on you, I come to know myself, and the more I know myself the more I know your goodness.’’ She also states that self-knowledge is like a circle of soil in the ground within which we find both self-knowledge and knowledge of God. We need to go round and round within the circle which has neither beginning nor end, drawing on its nourishment in order to grow into ‘’trees made for love and living only by love.’’
Psalm 91, The Responsorial Psalm for today Eucharist affirms the fruit of such a close relationship:
‘’The just will flourish like the palm tree
And grow like a Lebanon cedar.
Planted in the house of the Lord
They will flourish in the courts of our God,
Still bearing fruit when they are old,
still full of sap, still green.
In him my rock there is no wrong.’’
Knowing God’s goodness, as St. Catherine did, will help us to be more open and honest about our own sinfulness as Peter was, and face the challenges described in today’s Gospel of Luke (6: 39-45) some of which we struggle to overcome, and other blind areas of which we may be totally unaware. Maybe we could give time during Lent to reflect on times when our lack of self-knowledge has caused havoc in the life of another.
Perhaps a rewarding reflection this Sunday would be to spend some time mulling over the Entrance Antiphon and make it our own. One way would be to spend time reflecting on key moments in our life to date, when we were able to affirm with the Psalmist:
‘’The Lord has been my strength; he has led me into freedom.
He saved me because he loves me.’’
Today and every other day we can continue to say
‘’The Lord is my strength; he continues to lead me into freedom.
He saves me because he loves me’’
Thinking back on specific time when we heard ourselves say ‘’I should not be alive, I do not know how I escaped the fire, the storm, the drowning, the break in, the illness.’’ would help us discover how close God was to us during these events. Similarly, there may have been times when we were entrapped by our own ignorance or the greed of others or our own, knowing that ‘’He saved me because he loved me.’’
Such moments can become part of the ‘’going round and round within the circle which has neither beginning nor end, drawing on its nourishment in order to grow into ‘’trees made for love and living only by love’’ which St. Catherine refers to.
I remember a verse from my childhood which went something like this: ‘’Heaven is not reached by a single bound, but we build the ladder on which we mount, and rise to its summit round by round.’’ So, whether we aim for the sky or go deep into the soil, St. Augustine’s prayer ‘’Lord Jesus do this grace bestow, to know myself and Thee to know’’ is unlikely to be answered for any of us in a single movement.
This, the Eight Sunday of Ordinary Time is the mid-point between the Baptism of the Lord and Easter Sunday. This coming Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. Up to now we have met and journeyed with in Jesus in His public life and ministry. During this Season of Lent, He calls us to continue journeying with Him. How best can we accompany Jesus as He travels closer and closer to Calvary and all that entails for Him and for us. He told us that if we asked, we would receive.
What is our greatest need right now: for ourselves, for our country, and for our world?
Can we take Him at His word?
Sr. Caitríona Geraghty OP