Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Father Robert Barron writes that knowledge of God comes “not through grasping but through being grasped.”

To arrive at knowledge of life we are often taught to grasp it “by the horns”; to “seize the day”…carpe diem!

At times, we take this approach when it comes to God and whenever faced with life’s more mysterious nature which, much of the time, leaves us feeling like we’re “grasping at straws”.  Yet, God cannot be grasped or fully understood; only embraced and loved.  Only by “being grasped” by God do we encounter the One who eludes our grasp.  As with all relationships, God cannot be controlled or figured out.  Whenever we are controlling with others or with God, those relationships cease to breathe in any life-giving way.

I recall a passage found in “The Cloud of Unknowing”; a 14th century treatise on contemplative prayer:

It is God, and God alone, who can fully satisfy the hunger and longing of our spirit…He whom neither men nor angels can grasp by knowledge can be embraced [only] by love.  (p.50)

In the Gospel this 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, people listening to Jesus try to figure him out.  They thought they knew him, but what he is saying doesn’t jive with their knowledge of his family of origin.  They can’t quite understand what Jesus means when he shares with them his true origin and how God   desires to relate with them; with us all as the Bread of Life.  I recall through scripture study that the Gospel of John’s discourses expose the misunderstanding that exists between Jesus and his hearers.  Those listening to Jesus do so from what has been called the “surface structure”; whereas Jesus speaks from a “deep structure”.   In other words, those trying to figure Jesus out live on the surface while Jesus is coming from a deeper place.  Hence, they miss the point.  They just don’t get it.

Jesus eludes their grasp, and he responds, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them…”  The Christian path involves being drawn; grasped; embraced; loved.  God can’t be grasped by our knowledge; only received and embraced by love.  Only this approach can feed us and the Eucharist is the mysterious way this happens; the way God gets inside our lives.   Sometimes,   this way can seem so unconvincing when receiving it.  Logically, it doesn’t make sense and sometimes we feel nothing when taking it in hand.  Such is life, is it not?  Impatiently, we want to see, to feel and to know in a way that takes away all doubts.

All we are asked to do—as in any relationship—is to trust and receive what is.  “We do not need to know”, as Father Richard Rohr has said and that I recalled in a recent homily. It is then the miracle happens and we begin to taste—in time—something of God; something of the promise and hope offered us within every Eucharist; within life itself.    It’s all about being grasped and letting God take the lead.  To sense—in time—that the honest-to-God desire inside us, the hope reaching heavenward  is more real than any gnawing doubts we face in this life.  Simply, the Eucharist teaches us beyond the grasp of logic that God alone can fully satisfy the hunger and longing of our spirit.

Father Tim Clark, Pastor

Our Lady of the Lake, Seattle



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