Addressing the restless heart

AS I reside with young men and teach them the ways to preach the  Gospel and lead God’s people as future priests, I get insights on who they are and what their longings are. They come with varied backgrounds, educational attainment, experiences, and intellectual capacities. Each of them entered the seminary with particular gifts.

There is one thing that strikes me in many of them: They are seekers of truth. I see it in their love for books, the questions they ask in class, the papers they write, and their enthusiasm for learning. Some love classic writings like those of St. Thomas of Aquinas and St. Augustine. Others like getting back to the beauty of ancient prayers and rituals, while some appreciate the popular expressions of faith. From time to time a few would question the more current Church teachings and express their preference for more conservative views.

In all of them, I see a common manifestation of a restlessness of the heart, as St. Augustine expressed in his immortal words: “My heart is restless until it rests on God.”

It’s marvelous that this “restlessness” is happening in their lives. But I hope it’s not merely seeking the right doctrine or practice, but rather seeking the right relationship with God — the deeper understanding of communion with Him.

This is true for all of us: our lives on earth should be a constant longing for communion with God, which will ultimately come in the next life.

“But who do you say that I am?” Jesus asked his disciples in this Sunday’s Gospel.  I think this question is more than responding with the correct answer. Rather, it’s Jesus’ way of looking at how we long for God, who came in the flesh through the person of Christ.

The Second Reading, Romans 11:33-36, tells us that, although we have a profound longing for God, we cannot completely fathom him. It says, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!”

God, however, has shown us the way to His mind and heart through His Son, Jesus Christ. In Christ, we come nearer to Him by contemplating Jesus’ words, life, suffering, death, and resurrection.

Peter confessed faith in Jesus as the way to the Father by saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Because of this, Jesus told him, “You are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my Church.”

As we think of the ways of bringing people to God, the way to do it is not just by presenting some syllogism on how Jesus Christ is the truth, but by manifesting through our actions on how our relationship with him has brought us joy, meaning, and life. Evangelization is simply proclaiming and testifying the difference and impact that Jesus Christ has made in our lives.

Indeed, may our search for truth rest on our faith in Christ. May the restlessness of our hearts cease through our intimate union with Him, the God who became one with us! n

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From a Filipino immigrant family, Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas was ordained to the priesthood from St. John’s Seminary in 1991. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Culver City (1991-1993); St. Martha, Valinda (1993-1999); and St. Joseph the Worker, Canoga Park (1991-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Los Angeles, in 2002, which lasted 12 years. His term as Associate Director of Pastoral Field Education at St. John’s Seminary began in July 2014.

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