A Reflection on the Readings for Saturday of the Seventh Week of Easter
There is a priest in Erie, Pennsylvania named Fr. Larry Richards that describes himself as “loud, aggressive, and arrogant.” It’s a flattering way to start a resume, I’m sure. I’ve heard several of his talks and he can certainly be loud, but I also think he is good. But why am I starting with this lakeside priest? Because, in a conversation with some High School retreatants he captures the same thing that John presents us today in his gospel, and that Catechism of the Catholic Church offers us in paragraph 108. They all capture this idea, Jesus Christ is both transcendent and immanent. He is so near and yet bigger than we can ever handle.
The conversation I mentioned above is how Fr. Richard’s starts some of his retreats. He tells the young people that he denies the divinity of Christ and they have to prove it to him. They go back and forth until finally Christ’s resurrection is cited. At this point he asks how the teens know that Jesus rose from the dead, and the only answer he is willing to accept is this, “I’ve met Him. I know Him and have encountered Him.” Throughout all of this, people have cited the Bible, miracles, and the Church, but until they cite the person, he rejects their claims. In doing this he captures two realities, Christ is so transcendent that time and space cannot restrain Him, thus making Him so near that you and I must come to know Him.
This is also reflected in today’s gospel from John. Here are the concluding words of the passage, “There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.” This is such an interesting verse. Here is the written Word of God, a collection of books that we, as Catholics, profess reveal Jesus Christ. Yet, the Bible seems to only be able to do it if we hold Christ at arm’s length, because this very same book is telling us that all the world could not contain books enough to fully reveal who Jesus is. The analogy that pops in my head is that of a mountain. When I visited Colorado I could only appreciate the immensity of the mountains when I was too far to interact with them. If I kept my distance I could contain the mountain in my field of vision, but the depth of my relationship with the mountain was shallow at best. However, as I drew near to the mountain it became too massive to take in all at once. It was only when my field of vision was completely filled that I could interact with the reality of it. This is Christ! The vastness of His person and His impact only seem manageable if you don’t get too close, but to draw near to Him and allow Him to draw near to you is to have Him fill your entire field of vision. We keep our eyes fixed on Christ not because He is off in the distance, but because we have the view from the foot of the mountain. How can we see anything else?
This relationship between the transcendence and the nearness of Christ’s revelation is captured beautifully in one of my favorite quotes from the Catechism. In paragraph 108 we find these words, “Still, the Christian faith is not a ‘religion of the book.’ Christianity is the religion of the ‘Word’ of God, a word which is ‘not a written and mute word, but the Word which is incarnate and living.’” Essentially, we are a religion of a person, Jesus Christ. The written Word of God is only such because it reveals the Incarnate Word of God. Likewise, we are not a “religion of the church.” As Catholics that might sound weird, but being the Body of Christ only means something because the Son of God became flesh. We are a religion of a person because that person is so transcendent as to be worthy of all honor and praise, and because He is so near as to be known.
The point that all three of these sources seem to make is that all of space and time cannot contain Him — nor can it keep Him out!
Will you allow Him to fill your field of vision?
Will you allow Him to draw you near?
Will you come to meet the risen one?
He can be encountered in the Bible and found in His Church not so that we may keep him safely on the horizon like a mountain in the distance, but that we might encounter Him and in consuming Him, be consumed by Him.
– Spencer Hargadon
Originally Posted on May 23, 2015 at Ite Missa Est