“The One Greater” (6/24/2020)
Fr. Ignatius John Schweitzer, OP
In this life, God’s work among us always points to something more. God’s work in our souls always points to something more.
In our 1st Reading, Isaiah has in mind the restoration of Israel. But his thoughts are too small. For the Lord says, “It is too little, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” The Lord’s work of restoring Israel points to more. It points to his salvation reaching to the ends of the earth. God’s work among us always points to something more.
In our 2nd Reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Paul preaches about John the Baptist. He notes how John the Baptist says, as he was completing his course, “What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.” However great John the Baptist may be, he only points to the One who is greater coming after him. Something greater is always coming. God’s work among us always points to something more.
In our Gospel, at the birth of John the Baptist, the people marvel, “What, then, will this child be? For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.” John is great but he will only point to the One who is greater. God’s work among us always points to something more.
We might even think about the coming of the Lord Jesus himself. He fulfills all prophecies, no doubt. Yet even He points to something more: that day when all the members of His mystical Body will grow unto full maturity into Him, and we will behold God face to face. “What eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor 2:9).
Our Solemnity today, is peculiar, because it is a feast of a promise. We look ahead to the fulfillment, but the feast itself is of a promise. We celebrate the birth of the Forerunner, who only points to the One who is greater. It’s a beautiful feast for contemplatives—contemplatives who hold on to the word of promise, awaiting something more. What do we await? We await, a “I don’t know what” beyond our stammering. “Un no se que,” as St John of the Cross says.
In this life, God’s work among us always points to something more. God’s work in our souls, too, always points to something more.
Elsewhere, St John of the Cross says, “It should be understood that the desire for [God] that God grants in all His favors is a preparation for other more precious and [more] delicate anointings, made more according to the quality of God, until the soul is so delicately and purely prepared that it attains [complete] union with him” (LF 3.28).
God’s work in our souls always points to something more. Graces granted in prayer prepare for more precious and more delicate graces, made more according to the quality of God. That’s the case when we respond with the fiat of faithfulness and generosity.
What happens in prayer is always leading us to something more. Grace to grace, glory to glory. Sounds good, huh? But is it really like that?
Well, these graces that are building upon graces are more and more according to the quality of God. That’s the key phrase here, more according to the quality of God. More and more of spirit, than sensible. More and more subtle and delicate, than obvious and clear. More and more the infinite God, than our limited capacities. And so, you know the story: We experience some darkness and aridity in the very process of our prayer leading us to something more. We are left clinging to the promise in faith, hope, and love.
Yet, since God’s work in our souls always points to something more, perhaps we have to admit it’s for the better: this bit of darkness and aridity. This way we keep on stretching out in faith and hope for that something more, which is God Himself—God as He is in Himself.
In the end, we reach out toward that something more. In faith, we reach out into the darkness. In hope, we reach out with empty hands. In love, we reach out and embrace God, and He embraces us. In prayer, we reach out into the darkness with empty hands. But only because the boundless God of Love has first reached out to us and awaits us with open arms.