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Jesus’ “Uncontainability”


“I could more easily contain Niagara Falls in a tea cup then I can comprehend the wild, uncontainable love of God.” ~ Brennan Manning

Today marks a very busy and profoundly rich, grace-filled day in the Catholic Church as the faithful conclude the oldest and most venerable of all Novenas, the Novena to the Holy Spirit. We also wrap up our annual Easter Season voyage through the Gospel of John while celebrating the Memorial of the great Italian widow and Augustinian nun Saint Rita of Cascia All this as we stand poised to celebrate the birth of our church by way of the Vigil and subsequent Solemnity of Pentecost.

“You follow me.” These were the words of Jesus to Saint Peter in today’s Gospel (John 21:20-25) as the latter begins to pepper the Former with questions pertaining to his friend and fellow Apostle John. Peter’s questions surrounded John’s pending fate, both earthly and otherwise. Jesus though was trying to keep Peter, the newly appointed Rock of His burgeoning Church, focused on the lofty task that had been given to him.

Tending to the mission at hand, God’s will for our lives as His baptized children, is a cornerstone trait of all genuine Catholics Yet we know it isn’t easy. Not only do we lose our focus as Peter did today, we suffer bouts of restlessness, perhaps even seeking out or yearning for a different, most oftentimes “greater” role. I recently saw a coffee mug depicting a young David in what would be his seminal moment, slingshot cocked while standing in the vast shadow of a smug and smirking Goliath. Above the depiction of Goliath is the word “Goliath.” But above the depiction of David it simply says “Not you.” How often do we think that we must do prodigious things in the name of Jesus when in fact our mission is more often than not nestled neatly in the day-to-day.

What we might consider to be the mundane, the minutia, the irrelevant, God views as the sublime, the critical, the imperative. For it is in our daily lives that we find the simple opportunities to evangelize, to work out our help others do the same. Saint Therese of Lisieux taught us the importance of doing little things with profound love Her life was a testimony to this teaching, a life that culminated in Sainthood and the title of Doctor of the Church, an honor she shares with only three other women. Yet if she were to pay us a visit from the Heavenly Kingdom in which she now eternally resides, I believe wholeheartedly that she would be most joyful over the millions upon millions who have turned to her in intercessory prayer. On her deathbed she promised to spend all of eternity doing good upon Earth. It’s best for us to adopt the attitude of Saint Dominic Savio, who said “I can’t do big things. But I want all I do, even the smallest thing, to be for the greater glory of God.”

In the closing words of today’s Gospel, John concludes his Gospel with a sentence that is, quite frankly, impossible to wrap one’s head around. There are also many other things that Jesus did,”John says, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written. Jesus is, quite simply, uncontainable.The same can of course be said of Holy Spirit as we find ourselves on the threshold of Pentecost.

In his Pentecost Meditation tomorrow, Bishop Barron touches upon the Church’s Mission on the heels of this seminal Pentecostal Moment as captured in John’s Gospel (20:19-23) when he says “The Church receives its essential mission and identity as the bearer of the divine forgiveness. We have been entrusted with speaking the shalom of Jesus to a fallen and hopeless world. But it’s not cheap grace that we share. The Church refuses to explain sin away or make excuses for it or call it by another name.”

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We instead rely on the uncontainable power and love of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. “Unfurl the sails,“ proclaimed Saint Bede the Venerable, “and let God steer us where He will.”

On this the Memorial of the previously aforementioned Saint Rita of Cascia, she who Pope Leo XIII dubbed thePrecious Pearl of Umbria at her canonization ceremony in the year 1900, I leave you with a prayer I happily stumbled upon a few moments before Mass this morning, the Memorial Mass celebrated in her name.

“O God, who was pleased to communicate to Saint Rita such grace that she imitated Thee in the love of her enemies, and Who imprinted on her heart and forehead the sign of thy love and sufferings, through her merits and intercession be pleased, we pray, to compel us to love our enemies and to recall with compunction thy painful sufferings. Thou Who livest and reignest; world without end. Saint Rita, Patroness of the hopeless and advocate of the impossible, pray for us.” ~ Amen

For more on the life of Saint Rita of Cascia, please revisit my previous Essay

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