When are the moments when you feel “filled?” Those moments on this Earth are so fleeting, whether you feel filled by good food, time with friends, a special moment in your family. The best of these form memories of connectedness that both heal, restore and enrich our connection to others. Others, like our bodily needs to be “filled” are quickly fleeting. What does today’s passage mean “may you be filled with the fullness of God,” from today’s Mass reading (Eph 3:8-12, 14-19).
Think of those moments of fullness in your life. I think about special time with a friend; yet, there is never enough time. I think of those moments with my children, when we enjoy each other’s company, without nagging details, interruptions or time constraints breaking the moment. I think of those moments where I feel I’ve taught a perfect class, that you’ve really had an impact on a student, and then the bell rings. I think of those special moments in prayer or in the Mass, but then one has to move and return to the practical realities surrounding.
The Epistle reading for today has this climatic message:
For this reason I kneel before the Father,
from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,
that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory
to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self,
and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith;
that you, rooted and grounded in love,
may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones
what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge,
so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
The passage addresses the command to preach to the gentiles. While folks like us were once gentiles, who are the gentiles in our current culture, those outside the faith tradition. Yes, too many to name. Hence, this command carries forth in our lives, both in our personal day-to-day moments and in the broader culture, as community members and as citizens. We are all called to preach, but how can we do this? The Epistle tells us “this grace was given, so that the manifold wisdom of God
might now be made known through the church to the principalities and authorities in the heavens.”
“This grace was given.” It’s worth reminding ourselves all the time. This is not something new one generates through extraordinary spiritual effort. “This grace was given.” It has been given to us through Our Lord – through his life, his sacrifice, his sacraments, and his eternal presence both within us and throughout his people the world over.
Now, when something is given, it commands our gratitude. Hence, the passage moves next to the “reason” we “kneel before the father.” We kneel in humble gratitude for “this grace,” which is all-sufficient for our needs and for the needs of the world.
This grace also comes with a call to witness. The grace suffices to support this call: It enables us” to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self.” The Scripture explains: This was according to the eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness of speech and confidence of access through faith in him. This remains our “eternal purpose,” which we can only accomplish through Our Lord. Through him “we have boldness of speech.” We also should rest assured of our “confidence of access through faith in him.” It’s all there; “this grace was given.”
I don’t know about you, but when I read a passage like that my heart is inflamed. I want to call out to God in my broken understanding, and just shout: Bring it on! Show me the opportunity to witness.
We learn that “our hearts are rooted and grounded in love.” We do not exist alone. No act of love exits alone. It springs from grace, and meets grace in the wholeness of the Body of Christ, in the wholeness of our body and soul, in the wholeness of heaven and earth.
We are told further: may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge. What knowledge we are promised! – to understand like the saints, to glimpse the expanse of the divine, to “know the love of Christ which surpasses understanding.” Understanding is not the goal, but loving in the love of God, and trusting in that, suffices.
All this, we learn, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. That fullness cannot be explained. It can be known. It can be felt. It can be glimpsed. But more than our agency in relation to this fact, we are reminded to trust. Trust in the grace that “was given.” Trust in Christ, in his sacrifice and in his Church. Trust that this grace will “strengthen your inner self.” Trust that this grace will give you faith, knowledge, and embolden your witness. Trust in the fact that you are grounded in the greatest love. Trust in its fullness.