“You have formed us for yourself, our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
St. Augustine “The Confessions”
If you haven’t noticed, there is a lot of anger out there in society today. There are many who driven by fear and anger and who lash out. Some try to numb that anger with various earthly things. Some seethe in wrath. Some try to ignore it until the anger takes over. The anger is born of frustration. It si the frustration you might see a toddler have when trying to put a square into a hole for a circle. No matter how they shove it, it will not fit.
Why is that frustration there?
We have to go back to the beginning. In the Scriptures, when God created us first, He did so with there being a harmony between creation and Himself. We call this harmony ‘original justice’. But we know humanity lost that harmony when the disruption of sin was brought into the world. A void was created in the human heart. The loss of that original justice left a mark we call ‘original sin’. That hole left behind by the loss of original justice wants to be filled. It is why humanity, for as long as records have been kept, has searched beyond itself for something greater. Humanity has looked to the skies, to nature, to anything that might give him some inkling of what that something greater is. We are born with a restless heart.
We Catholics believe that God wanted to fill that restlessness with Himself. He creates a people and nation. He wants to be their God and for them to be His people. But the consequences of original sin had to be dealt with in a way that the God-sized hole might be filled. He addresses this by sending His Son. His Son, by becoming one of us, can address the wrong we had done through sin. His Son, by also being the Son of God, could be poured out to fill that God-sized hole. The only thing that will fill that God sized hole is God Himself. Nothing else, no matter how hard we try, will fill that hole.
In baptism, we believe that God gives us in His Son this thing called sanctifying grace. It is the life of God that floods in to us to fill that God-sized hole. So, after baptism, we’re cool, right? While that God-sized hole is filled, it doesn’t mean we can’t empty it again. Adam and Eve did that. We do it the same way they did. We choose something else to try to fill a spot that should already be full. We are tempted to believe that the hole is there when it is not. Adam and Eve were complete. The devil tricked them into believing they weren’t. He tricked them into believing they were not complete unless they ate of the one tree that God told them from which not to eat. The devil instilled fear that God is not enough for them. The tree is there so that Adam and Eve may positively choose to love God. God wants a relationship of love, not a forced marriage.
That we keep looking for something else to fill that hole even when that hole is filled by God is called concupiscence. Concupiscence is that desire to fill the God-sized hole with something other than God. When we choose to sin, we tell God that He is not enough. Some people will own this and fall into disbelief, into agnosticism or atheism. Some will be stirred to anger over this and fall into antitheism. Some will try to fill this hole with earthly things. Some will look to wealth and power. Some will look to fame (even infamy) and honor. Some will look to pleasure. Everything and everyone become a means to fill that God-sized hole.
I knew people like me who try to numb that awareness with alcohol, sex, and narcotics. Certainly that is one way of addressing the emptiness of the God-sized hole. It’s a not a good way, but it is a way many take.
We are a society hooked on so many things. We allow porn and the misuse of human sexuality to take the place of love, yet no amount fills us up does it? The porn doesn't make the isolation go away. Some use alcohol and drugs to numb the pain, but that pain still waits for them when the high or buzz goes away. Some consume like locusts, buying things they don’t need and don’t use thinking that the accrual of stuff will make them happy. Society will fuel these things because you can buy their goods and services until you have expended everything you have. What then? Anger. Lots and lots of anger. Where God is not allowed, sin will reign supreme and drag our souls to hell long before we die.
So, how do we keep that God-sized hole filled after baptism so we don’t get fooled into this downward spiral?
First, we have to acknowledge the problem. Christ gave us a means of refilling that hole. Sin and Christ will not co-exist in that same spot. Where we have allowed sin to thrust Christ out, which is what we do when we engage in mortal sin, then that sin must be cast out. This happens in the sacrament of Reconciliation. In our taking ownership for our caving in to temptation, we throw out what we invited in and ask God to once again fill that God-sized hole with Himself. That sanctifying grace washes back in us again and the hole is filled. Be aware, though, that we still possess the ability to shove Christ right back out again. That pesky concupiscence doesn’t go away. The devil doesn’t stop trying to fool us into believing the hole is still there. So what we do?
That is the second part. We use this life of Christ in us to develop a life of virtue. If we don’t, we make it easy to shove Christ out. Virtue helps us to develop the relationship with Christ and to deepen the bond so much that we eventually get to the place that it will be very difficult for the devil to lie to us; it will be very difficult for him to use our concupiscence against us. Virtues are disciplines we develop through conscious choice. As with any good habit, virtues are built choice by choice. The principle virtues we develop are the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude and the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. The more we exercise these virtues the more aware we are of what is filling that God-sized hole.
Finally, we need to understand that human effort is not enough. This is why God wants to fill that God sized hole! We need God’s grace to fill that hole. We need the grace given to us through the sacraments in particular. We need the rush of sanctifying grace given us at baptism and Confession. We need the grace of the gifts of the Holy Spirit given to us through Confirmation. We need the Body and Blood of Christ to keep our strength up to live the life of virtue. We need the grace to live our vocation that is given through Matrimony and Holy Orders. We need that prayer life to hone in on the virtues we need to build with God’s grace. This is why the practice of fasting, abstinence, and mortification should not be absent in our spiritual lives as they are divine tools to help build the virtue we need. Lastly, we need the humility to know we need God’s help and that God and only God can fill that God-sized hole. God calls us beyond the frustration and anger of trying to fill an eternal hole with temporal things. Truly, our hearts do rest when we allow them to rest in God!