The Love of Christ
Several phrases from today’s two readings could each serve as a theme — not merely for a homily — but for an entire retreat! For example, “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith,” or “I have come to set the earth on fire!” We might take one line, however, from the Letter to the Ephesians: “to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” and ponder upon it for today’s reflection.
A current spiritual writer says that we live in a time and in a culture with an obsession for clarity; we limit reality to what WE can understand, what is clear to us. What, then, does it mean that “Christ’s love surpasses knowledge”? This is different from the time of the Enlightenment (Europe, eighteenth century) when many felt that reason alone would solve all problems. For some today, reality is limited to what is perceived by our human senses, what can be entered into a computer, or measured and monitored in a test tube. It was St. Paul, however, who wrote, “…we see dimly (or indistinctly) now, as in a mirror, but then, face to face. (1 Corinthians 13:12)
It’s ironic that science now tells us NOT to limit reality to our perceptions. It was back in the 1920’s that Werner Heisenberg articulated his “uncertainty principle,” stating there is a fuzziness in nature, a fundamental limit to what we can know about the behavior of quantum particles, and that the best we can hope for is to calculate probabilities for where things are and how they will behave. And it was in the 1990’s that the Hubble telescope (named after the “pioneer of the stars,” Edward Hubble) helped us realize that the universe is expanding! The cosmos, our biggest frame of reference, is still unfolding, at a greater and greater pace!
Of course, this is a simplistic analysis, but it tells us that science is not the enemy of religion, that the thirteenth century “Cloud of Unknowing” is truly relevant today, to know that the love of Christ surpasses our knowledge. How sad that we barricade ourselves in our own little worlds, circling the wagons of our myopic vision. We listen to talk radio (thug radio!) and watch our cable news networks that support only our preconceptions and nurture our particular bias. This is low-level religion, when we entrench ourselves deeper and deeper into our toxic polarization with no room for the Spirit… and all the while the goal is not TRUTH-seeking, but victory and dominance.
Today, may we instead know the love of Christ that surpasses our knowledge!
Fr. Jack Conley, C.P. is a member of the Passionist formation community at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.