Thursday, October 21, 2010

Daily - 10/21/10

Ephesians 3:14-21

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father,

15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,

16 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,

17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love,

18 may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth,

19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us,

21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

This is one of my very favorite passages. It has been absolutely key to my own spiritual development. In June 2008, about a month after I took over this mailing list, I wrote about this passage for the first time. Here's what I said:

"This is Paul praying for all of us to attain spiritual maturity – to “be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self,” and to comprehend “the breadth and length and height and depth” of Christ’s love, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.

This is a description of the abundant life that Jesus came to give us (John 10:10). What do I need to do to get it? From above, it appears that I can’t get this on my own – I need to pray to have God give me this grace. My strategy is to let the Word enrich me, to strive for obedience, to pursue the sacraments regularly (i.e. Eucharist and reconciliation), and to pray for God to strengthen my inner self with his Spirit. The last part is undoubtedly a stumbling block for men, who are very much used to solving problems themselves. In this case though, Paul is clear. This abundance is granted from God, and I need to make myself available to Him."


After a couple of years of pursuing this point, I've learned that this passage is describing what occurs when a person becomes spiritually united with Christ -- when we have completely submitted our own wills to God, which allows our wills to become fully aligned with His.

Paul didn't have the words to describe it, but over the history of the Church God has given us others who have been able to better put this into words. The two saints that have been most recognized for describing this are St. Teresa of Avila (in "Way of Perfection" and "The Interior Castle"), and St. John of the Cross (in "Ascent of Mt. Carmel" and "Dark Night of the Soul."). These are two who became the "holy ones" that St. Paul mentions in verse 18.

This subject is too broad and deep to cover in this type of format. What I can tell you though, is that the path to spiritual union -- to "comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge" is OPEN for all of us. We are all called to it. Christ tells us that the gate is narrow and the path is constricted, but the path IS THERE for us. It requires conscious effort on our part, which lays the foundation for God to do His work in us.

Here's how the Catechism describes it:

2012 "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him . . . For those whom he fore knew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified."

2013 "All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity." All are called to holiness: "Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

In order to reach this perfection the faithful should use the strength dealt out to them by Christ's gift, so that . . . doing the will of the Father in everything, they may wholeheartedly devote themselves to the glory of God and to the service of their neighbor. Thus the holiness of the People of God will grow in fruitful abundance, as is clearly shown in the history of the Church through the lives of so many saints.

2014 Spiritual progress tends toward ever more intimate union with Christ. This union is called "mystical" because it participates in the mystery of Christ through the sacraments - "the holy mysteries" - and, in him, in the mystery of the Holy Trinity. God calls us all to this intimate union with him, even if the special graces or extraordinary signs of this mystical life are granted only to some for the sake of manifesting the gratuitous gift given to all.

2015 The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle. Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes:

He who climbs never stops going from beginning to beginning, through beginnings that have no end. He never stops desiring what he already knows.

2016 The children of our holy mother the Church rightly hope for the grace of final perseverance and the recompense of God their Father for the good works accomplished with his grace in communion with Jesus. Keeping the same rule of life, believers share the "blessed hope" of those whom the divine mercy gathers into the "holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband."