Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA
John tells us that if he were write down everything that Jesus said and did “the whole world would [not] contain the books that would be written.” Does it trouble you that Jesus said and did many things that are not written in the gospels? If it does, it shouldn't. The gospel accounts of Jesus' life and ministry convey to us the essentials of the New Covenant, everything necessary for the salvation of the world. We are given relevant historical facts (names, dates, places) so that we know that the events described happened in the real world and not the fabled world of “once upon a time.” Details of these events are meant to reveal God's grace working in the lives of the men and women who witnessed them. Testimony from witnesses tells us how God's grace transforms the fallen human heart and mind into a beacon of beckoning light. Jesus' words and deeds are living events, even now they are on-going, continuing to make known his saving presence among us. John cannot write down everything that Jesus says and does b/c our Lord is still speaking, still doing all that he has to say and do. And we—his brothers and sisters—are his tongue and his hands.
Imagine that you have 60 or 70 containers of varying shapes and sizes—a small glass vase, a 64oz plastic cup, a three gallon clay flower pot, a 500 gallon steel drum, etc. You also have a pump submerged in Lake Pontchartrain attached to a hose. You fill each container to its capacity. You now have 60 or 70 containers of varying shapes and sizes filled with water. Since water is fluid, it takes on the shape and size of its container and though the water takes on the shape and size of its container, it is still water, still fluid. When Jesus spoke his Word 2,000 years ago, he began to pump out into the world the living water of his Holy Spirit, filling every human vessel willing to be container. His Word took on the shape and size of each person who opened himself to receive a drink from his fountain of truth. And though shaped and sized according to the receiver, the Word remained the Word—unchanging, perfect. Sitting at the right hand of the Father, the Son sent the Holy Spirit among us, to pour out the living water of truth, and he continues to pour, continues to fill every human heart willing to serve as a container. He acts and speaks in us and through us still. This is why John could not write down everything that Jesus said and did: Christ is not done speaking nor is he finished doing.
Luke tells us in Acts that Paul remained a prisoner in Rome for two years, and “. . .with complete assurance and without hindrance he proclaimed the Kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” As a filled-to-the-brim vessel of the Lord's Holy Spirit, Paul, even from a prison cell, proclaimed the Kingdom and preached Christ crucified. Chains and iron bars cannot contain the Holy Spirit. Unjust laws and public ridicule cannot contain the Holy Spirit. Violence and death cannot contain the Holy Spirit. Only the human heart and mind, set free from the slavery of sin and urged on by the Church can hold the cleansing light, the purifying fire of the Holy Spirit. Regardless of shape or size or color or material construction, any human heart and mind willing to receive the living waters of the Holy Spirit can and will be filled to the brim and overflowing. What will you do today that can be written down in the book of Christ's deeds? What will you say that can be recorded in his book of wisdom? You contain the word of life. How will you speak it? You are an act of salvation. What redeeming deed will you accomplish?
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