A Word about the Readings
by Father Gethin
(The readings may be found here)
Our lessons today call us toward and into the final stage of our Christian faith, our free and unhindered communion and fellowship with the life of God. Last week Paul reminded us how all our hope, all our access to that divine glory, comes to us only as we learn to embrace the Cross. By resting our hearts in the sacrifice of our suffering Lord, we find the source of all our goodness and redemption, so that we are freed at the same time to let go of the false and vain glories of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Now this Sunday, we may move onward, to a more direct encounter with the fullness of God’s life and being: “that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” Here, at last, we might say, all the hard work of this Trinity season begins to pay off, because here at last we begin to perceive and to share in that heavenly measure of life, that is simply greater than we are able to conceive by ourselves.
It is a paradox, to be sure: to comprehend what is beyond our understanding! From any outside, rational, point of view, this is sheer nonsense. A container is limited by its volume. But here is the wonderful mystery that we learn, as we come to accept the utter poverty of our human condition, and at the same time the magnificent scale of God’s mercy, in the person of our Saviour: we may be limited by our finite created powers, but God is not.
It is true beyond any doubt that it is the very height of vanity to imagine we can conquer heaven with our own efforts, or describe God to ourselves by virtue of our own faculties. Any efforts of this kind end only in tragedy and ruin. But God, according to the absolute humility of His infinite and gracious glory, is never prevented from condescending, to give Himself to us. And if God invests the fullness of His divine power into the act of offering Himself to us, it is certain, that by virtue of His perfect operation in love, what He gives, we may also receive. This is the heaven-opening reality of our faith: that in the course of our salvation, we are not only restored to our own mortal, human story—but that our finite, created existence becomes the location of God’s infinite, and immortal goodness. “I came that you should have life, and have it abundantly,” Jesus told them. It is beyond hope and expectation. It is to be unexpectedly raised from death to life.
The people in the Gospel story never asked Jesus to do what He did: how could they? Nothing in their human experience and understanding could have provided them with the language for such an impossible prayer. And yet it is real. “He that was dead sat up, and began to speak.” “This mortal must put on immortality,” as Paul would write to Corinth. And how does this all find its way to us? “By the strengthening of the Spirt, in the inner man”—that is, by a kind of new courage to hope without human limits. This is what we find, as we persevere, in our faith. The gift does come to us, more fully, day by day. That is why we are here. And that is how we must pray for one and other.