The Love that Cannot be Contained
Sermon preached by Fr. Antony Hughes on Sunday, July 6, 2014
The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. (8:5-13)
It is always interesting when a celebrity wakes up to the spiritual life. Two caught my attention recently. Russell Brand, believe it or not, came out sounding like a veritable guru, in his typical fast and furious style of talking and what he said, if you could keep up with it, was astoundingly true! It was tiring to listen to and refreshing all the same.
Another is Jim Carrey. Yes, the Jim Carrey of “Dumb and Dumber and “Ace Ventura” fame. He discovered Buddhism and has gotten very serious about living a spiritual life. One of the things he said impressed me so much I sent it out as one of my daily text messages. It goes like this: “My soul is not contained within the limits of my body. My body is contained within the limitlessness of my soul.” Very true.
The reason I bring that up is that I believe the truth of it is demonstrated in today’s Gospel reading. If this is true of human beings like you and me (I think it is), then most assuredly it is true of Jesus Christ who, as we see in his “in absentia” healing of the Centurion’s servant, is not limited by his body. He healed with a word and from a distance! One could say, I think, that the soul of Jesus, the Christ, contained his body and was not limited by it.
Let’s go back to the Gospel reading for last Sunday: Peter’s confession. Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” Peter makes a confession that is both impulsive and inspired, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” That is quite a confession! I am sure he didn’t really know all he was saying. We don’t either. It is too cosmic! It is beyond our capacity to comprehend. But let’s say something.
We know what it is for the Lord to be Jesus, the man born in time from his Mother Mary. That is easy to grasp for us. But to say that this human being Jesus is also the Christ! That is something altogether different. This gets to the heart of the matter like John and Paul and the writer of Hebrews do to further explain what this means as we read the New Testament. Also, please remember that “Christ” is not the Lord’s last name. It is a title and a description, not a proper name.
John tells us that this Jesus who is the Christ is also the Logos who was with God and was God. That is what it means to say “You are the Christ.” The Christ is wholly divine and it is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, who became man. How could the Logos made flesh be limited by his body?
Paul in his letter to the Colossians writes that “He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth…He is before all things and in him all things hold together…For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” All of sudden we see Jesus magnified as the Christ beyond imaging just as he was on Mt. Tabor when he was transfigured.
Paul writes something else that becomes quite personal for all of us because it places us in him even before we were born! He writes that God “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.” All of a sudden time disappears and we begin to see Jesus as the Christ and us as somehow united with him from before the creation of time itself! If you contemplate this for a moment, you find yourself in entirely new territory. It broadens the perspective right into eternity, beyond how we usually think, earthbound as we think we are, as we are taught that we are…usually.
This is amazing! A new and cosmic perspective outside the box of our normal ways of thinking. The mysterious writer of the letter called Hebrews (most certainly not Paul) calls Jesus Christ the” heir of all things” and the one who “upholds the universe by the word of his power.” It is interesting that the troparion of St, Antony the Great says something similar of him, “He is the upholder of the universe by his prayer.” The Church recognizes a wondrous and mysterious connection between Jesus the Christ and regular old human beings like me and you and Antony the Great. We are, it seems, really co-worker with Christ.
Not only that, but Paul writes again of Christ as the one who is drawing all things to himself. Here is the rest of the quote I started earlier from Col. 1:8. Let’s read the whole thing! “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell and through him to reconcile all things, whether on earth or in heaven…” To reconcile all things…all of them and that does not mean some things, it means all things. If we think about that, it has the power to crush our little, sectarian mindsets and blows the roof off of religion altogether.
I think that is enough to make my point. We need to open our minds and set ourselves free (as Paul writes in Ephesians 3:18-19) to “comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth” of the great mystery of this Jesus who is the Christ and to know the power of Divine Love which surpasses knowledge, breaks down barriers, walks through the solid walls of our hardened hearts, that “we may be filled with all the fullness of God”…just as Jesus Christ was, is and ever shall be.
In this little in absentia healing with a word from a distance of this insignificant slave of a hated but faithful Roman Centurion we can find a seed of awakening into the greater reality, the deeper meaning, the incalculable truth of the immense love and unlimited compassion of the Kong of Kings and Lord of lords who became man. His soul was not imprisoned in his body, but overflowed it into the entire universe so that had the servant boy been on Pluto he would have been healed all the same. His is most certainly the love that cannot be contained. The astounding reality is that this is a mirror for us of not only what it truly means to call Jesus the Christ, but also what it means to be truly human.