Column: Church is called to fill universe with Christ

Father Mike Stubbs is the pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park and has a degree in Scripture from Harvard University.
Father Mike Stubbs is the pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park and has a degree in Scripture from Harvard University.

by Father Mike Stubbs

The Hubble telescope has greatly expanded our view of the universe. It has enabled astronomers to peer into the distant reaches of outer space, to observe galaxies billions of light years away from earth.

And yet, Sunday’s second reading wishes to enable us to see even further, to show us the universe in an entirely new way, to probe its mysteries even deeper.

The reading from Ephesians offers us a vision of the glorified Christ on a global scale, a vision that ranges from the heights of the heavens to the depths of the earth. It shows Christ as risen from the dead in an upward trajectory that continues with his ascension into heaven where he sits at God’s right hand: “raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens.”

At the same time, his feet remain firmly planted on earth: “And he puts all things beneath his feet.” The earth, in a sense, serves as his footstool.

If Christ, in his glorified body, stretches all the way from heaven to earth, then he encompasses the entire universe, filling this vast space with his presence. His glorified body accomplishes what his earthly body could not. His glorified body brings “the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.”

We might be tempted to interpret this all-encompassing presence of Christ in the universe in a mystical way only. In other words, he would be present in a spiritual sense that cannot be seen or heard.

However, the Letter to the Ephesians does not let us off so easily. In the midst of this majestic paean to Christ, our complacency is jarred by an unsettling reminder. It affirms the church as the body of Christ: “And he (God) put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body.”

A misguided interpretation might derive a sense of triumphalism from this passage and lead to unwarranted pride. Rather, these words should inspire humility in the church as it realizes the vast responsibility entrusted to it. As a church, we are called to fill the universe with the presence of Christ. We are called to bring the mercy and compassion of Christ everywhere.

That is the call mentioned earlier in the reading, which prays “that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call.” This global responsibility matches the global vision which the Letter to the Ephesians wishes us to see: “May the eyes of your heart be enlightened.”

Only eyes enlightened by faith will be able to behold the vision revealed by the Letter to the Ephesians. Like the Hubble telescope, the letter enables us to see further, if only we will look.

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