Gospel Luke 12:13-21
“Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind”
‘You are what you love.’ Such is the title and basic premise of a book I have been reading recently by the theologian James K.A. Smith.
What underpins such a bold and perhaps somewhat confusing assertion is an anthropological claim that humans are primarily lovers. This stands in stark contrast to the modern (Cartesian) notion of humans as ‘thinking things.’
What he means is that it is not just enough for us to simply hold to a belief, or set of propositions intellectually. How often do we find ourselves falling back into habits we have continually vowed to eschew! (cf. Rom 7:13-25). As the philosopher, Dietrich von Hildebrand was known to have said, ‘enthusiasm for a virtue is not the same thing as possessing it.’
In his rather demanding words about the evils of avarice or greed, Jesus is admonishing us to guard our heart – to be cautious about what becomes the object of our love. In this, Jesus emphasises a significant truth: that the human appetite is infinite.
St Augustine of Hippo would emphasise this reality in the opening pages of his autobiography ‘The Confessions.’ He writes, “You have made us for yourself O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you,” essentially pointing to the reality that the human person is created for eternal union with the Triune God, and nothing but this union will suffice.
The Confessions go on to describe a life of passionate but misplaced loves that consistently fail to satisfy poor Augustine until, that is, he finds rest, in not only the knowledge but the love of God.
What is it that I love? Have I allowed a love of fleeting things to consume me?
Point to Ponder
Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.
– St Augustine of Hippo – The Confessions Book X, Ch. 27