“Throughout Christianity’s history there has been a tendency to understand following Christ as the extinction or suppression of our desire. But Jesus seems to have been more interested in unlocking our desire, breaking it loose from the anxious, fearful, obsessive desire we see in the world around us, and setting it ablaze with God’s own desire. A particularly famous and beautiful example of this inflaming of our desire as the re-creation of our personhood comes from a passage in Augustine’s Confessions. Augustine is lamenting how easily he was hoodwinked into trying to satisfy his desire with the things of this world. But then he praises God for arousing him to an even greater desire:
‘You have called to me, and have cried out, and have shattered my deafness. You have blazed forth with light, and have shone upon me, and you have put my blindness to flight! You have sent forth your fragrance, and I have drawn in my breath, and I pant after you. I have tasted you, and I hunger and thirst after you. You have touched me, and I have burned for your peace.’
God’s outpouring of the divine life initiates a reciprocal yearning in Augustine. But notice how God does this–not by simply giving Augustine a gift to possess, albeit a divine gift, but rather by awakening all his senses, all the structures of Augustine’s self. God, we could say, re-creates Augustine by awakening an ‘I’ who lives by the desire for God. Augustine describes himself as one whose senses have been restored to their true functions; he is more alive than ever as a person because he is alive in response to and in relationship with God.
As I have suggested before, this desire that the Father pours out and the Son opens our hearts to receive is none other than God the Holy Spirit, becoming the soul of our soul, the spirit of our spirit. But this does not happen to us privately; it takes place in and through the communion of new relationships we call the church. Why? Because God’s life is a communal even of loving, the Trinity, and therefore it cannot come among us without taking a communal form. Indeed, the Father loves Jesus into being by giving him others to love in turn–disciples to teach, the brokenhearted to comfort, and the world to save. It is precisely by going out of himself in love toward all these others that Jesus is most himself, the Beloved of God. In the same way we become most ourselves through participation in Jesus’ relationship with the Father, and that relationship takes the form of a glorious, struggling, comically (and sometimes tragically) inept community of disciples.” (Mark McIntosh, Mysteries of Faith, pp. 155-56)