“The Superabundance of God’s Grace” (Eph 3:14-21) (10/21/10)
Rev. Br. Ignatius Schweitzer, OP
I can hardly think of a stronger expression of Christian hope than this closing of the 1st Reading: “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus, to all generations, forever and ever. Amen”
No matter how amazing is the thing we ask for in prayer. No matter how grand is the scenario we think up, for our good and the glory of God. God is “able to do far more abundantly beyond all we ask or think.” And the implication is that we should indeed have a strong hope for this far more abundant thing that God is able to do.
This is helpful, for a lot of times what we ask for is not granted, and what we think would be best doesn’t happen. These can be times of discouragement. Or, if we take this reading to heart, these can be opportunities to discover that far more abundant thing that God wants to accomplish.
It is said of St Paul of the Cross that he used to cry out, “Deliver us, O Lord, from the way of Paul!” In his prayer to be delivered from his own way—that is, his own expectations and plan—there is a tinge of self-denial to be sure, but there is also a tinge of supreme hope in the God who is “able to do far more abundantly beyond all we ask or think.” His ways will be far better than Paul’s ways, or any of our ways.
Here’s a second example. Richard John Neuhaus, on the brink of death, wrote this, “The entirety of our prayer is ‘Your will be done’—not as a note of resignation but of desire beyond expression.”
This desire beyond expression is contained in this doxology from Ephesians. It is a hopeful desire for what surpasses all expectation. So when we pray, “Abba thy will!”, we do so as little children, awaiting with excitement what our Father will do. Our only expectation is that he’ll surprise us with his superabundance.
For we see this superabundance in the earlier chapters of Ephesians. They give us a glimpse of the marvelous things God wills to accomplish, the God “who has bestowed on us in Christ, every spiritual blessing in the heavens.”
His plan involves “the glorious riches of his inheritance in the saints.” His plan involves “the surpassing greatness of his power in us who believe.” His plan involves “raising us up with Christ and seating us with him in the heavenly places.” His plan involves “building us together into a dwelling place for God in the Spirit.”
All these superabundant things come together in those unsearchable riches of Christ, which God has planned for us. And all these glorious things stand behind the doxology that ends chapter 3. They engender in us the hope we have in Him who is “able to do far more abundantly beyond all we ask or think.”
To close, here’s a suggestion for our life. Normally all the situations of life that don’t meet our expectations can tend to rub us the wrong way, and leave us chaffed over time. But with the perspective offered in Ephesians, it would be more accurate to see these collisions in life, instead, as bumping up against a plan that is beyond us, and far surpasses all we ask or think.
Such situations are meant to be, not oppressive, but expansive. And what do they expand us for? Ephesians gives us the final answer. These clashes with Divine Providence expand us for “the breadth and length and height and depth, the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”