Breadth and Length and Height and Depth, Conclusion

Prayer for the Readers Eph 3:14-21

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.[1]

So, I have explored a small fraction of what the Holy Spirit conveys in this passage and now we reach the concluding sentence.

Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine

The Father is He who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine: There are at least three parts to this statement: God’s omnipotence; our faith; and our hopes:

God’s omnipotence: The Father is He who is able to accomplish…All things are possible for God. [Mk 10:27; Mt 19:26]

I often forget the omnipotence of God because, being surrounded by it every moment of my life, I become inured, cloyed, deadened in the worst possible sense of that word, to the all surrounding, all embracing, all loving manifestation of God in creation. It’s sad, in a way, that I don’t appreciate the miracles popping up all around me every second of my existence, infinitesimal particles come into being and flash out of existence millions of times a second throughout this vast universe, the life conceived continuously and, through God’s providence and love, thrives into fullness, the light from unfathomably distant stars has not even reached me yet, though it started at the instant of creation in an expanding space that is literally faster than the speed of light. Give me the eyes to see…and slow me down to appreciate Your Greatness….

Even when I do ponder Your omnipotence, I am overwhelmed over by the incomprehensiveness of the very concept of Your omnipotence. What does it mean to be omnipotent? Children [and adults, like myself, who fool ourselves into thinking we can control the world around them] play at being omnipotent all the time, perhaps to both expand and define the boundaries of finitude in which we find ourselves enveloped. But Your omnipotence is so far greater than anything of which I can conceive, it literally blows my mind and I, like Job, must repent of my folly: I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be hindered. I have spoken but did not understand; things too marvelous for me, which I did not know…Therefore I disown what I have said, and repent in dust and ashes. [Job 42: 2-3,6]

Finally, the reason I go about my daily life blasé to the truth of reality is that I am so entangled with my “me” and enthralled with my egocentric vision of the world that I miss the pageantry of Your love continuously performing the Ode to Love around me. I am a schmuck smothering beneath the immense bubble of my balloon of a world, a texting unobservant and distracted driver whose impact with Your reality has exploded my emergency air bag, temporarily burying my face in the face mold of my preening self and blinding me to Your awe-inspiring reality. Do I truly appreciate the fact that You are even aware of and count the hairs on my head? [Lk 12:7; Mt 10:30] Truly a major “duh?” moment.

Our Faith: far more than all we ask

Asking is a major theme of the Gospels. With each statement, there is a nuance of asking.

  • I have to ask: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.[Mt 7:7-8]
  • I ask in Jesus name; fulfillment glorifies the Father in the Son: And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. [Jn 14:13]
  • I will be answered because I am chosen and appointed to go and bear fruit: I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. [Jn 15:16]
  • I will be answered on the day I have complete faith: On that day you will not question me about anything. Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you. [Jn 16:23]
  • I will receive what I ask for in prayer with faith: Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive. [Mt 21:22] Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours. [Mk 11:24]
  • The Father will grant what we pray for in common: Again, [amen,] I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. [Mt 18:19]
  • I will be answered if I remain in Jesus and live his words: If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. [Jn 15:7]
  • We know God will answer us because we do what pleases Him: We have confidence in God and receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.[1Jn 3:21-22]
  • God hears and grant us anything that is in accord with His will: And we have this confidence in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, we know that what we have asked him for is ours. [1Jn 5:14-15]
  • God will hear our prayers and right the wrongs done to us: Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. [Lk 18:7-8]

So, I have to ask, God expects us to ask, God is glorified by and enjoys answering our prayers, God will answer our prayers if we have faith and do His will and particularly when we “call out to him day and night” over injustices.

Why am I so timid about asking? So reluctant? Is it that I don’t have faith that He will answer our prayers? I don’t want to be disappointed that His answer may be “No,” or “Not now,” or something else I don’t want to hear?

I think it is all of the above and especially that I don’t trust God. When I pray, it should be with the openness of Mary that it be done to me according to Your word [Lk 1:38], of Jesus: Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but Yours be done. [Lk 22:42] But I don’t trust Your word; I don’t want Your will to be done, I want mine! Your will may indeed end up badly, involving me in unwed pregnancies like You did to Mary, or worse, in being arrested, tried, mocked, scourged, crowned with thorns, betrayed by my own people, condemned to a traitor’s death, forced to carry my cross and crucified like You did to Your own Son! When I pray: your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven [Mt 6:10], I hate to realize what I am getting myself into! I may have given up house or brothers or sisters or mother and all that stuff for Jesus’ sake and for the sake of the gospel, but besides receiving a hundred times more now in this present age: including houses and brothers and sisters and mothers, etc., etc., there’s a zinger at the end…a bonus You, God, throw in for free: with persecutions. Granted, it’s followed by eternal life in the age to come, [Mk 10:29-30] but those persecutions! I signed up for the daily cross, but does it really have to go this far!

My one consolation [there are a myriad of others to which I am blind] is that your Scripture is replete with reminders that even in persecution, I’m in good company. Even if the world hates you, realize that it hated Me first. [Jn 15:18] You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to another. Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. [Mt 10:22-23]

Indeed, it is the world reality and not a warped sense of humor that prompted You to make this another beatitude: Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way. [Lk 6:22-23] Persecution is a sign that the Spirit of God is with me: If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. [1Pet 4:14] In fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God. They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me. [Jn 26:2b-3] If this happens, I will indeed be in good company for You have sent prophets and apostles; some of them they will kill and persecute in order that this generation might be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah. [Lk 11:49b-51a]

But even in persecution, You will be with me: Call on Me on the day of distress; I will rescue you, and you shall honor Me”[Ps 50:15] Even when I think that You have forgotten how to show mercy, in anger withheld…[Your] compassion,[Ps 77:10; see 91:15] I know the answer: Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you….Even when your hair is gray I will carry you. {Is 49:15; 46:4]

Help me ask then, for You are overjoyed to give.

or imagine:

This addition, this phrase, strikes me as somewhat peculiar. Isn’t everything that we ask for something of which we first have an image in our mind, something we imagine us having?

I guess yes and no. Yes, we know for what we ask. No, this is actually an invitation to dream big, to push out the envelope, to wander outside the box with God in the Garden of Divine Delights.

Paul is making at least two points: first, that the miracles by which I am surrounded at present are so beyond my comprehension that, in and of themselves, they blow my mind beyond all boundaries. Who but God would have demonstrated the miracle of creation out of nothing, the perfection of the alignment of untold circumstances that enabled earth to form, the force of energy within matter that welds the universe together, the spark of divine essence we call “life,” the evolution of millions of varieties of fauna and flora, each uniquely adapted to its purpose in the cosmos, the unique ability of humankind to address the Divine, the divinizing of Human History, the humbling enfleshment of the Divine, the unwavering obedience of the Son of God, the resurrection to eternal immortality, Jesus fully present yet hidden in “bread and wine.” Try explaining those things in their entirety in science, philosophy or theology class.

The second point is that much of which is not revealed is a mystery beyond our finite comprehension. Who has directed the spirit of the LORD, or instructed him as his counselor? Whom did he consult to gain knowledge? Who taught him the path of judgment, or showed him the way of understanding? [Is 40:13-14] As God has inspire Isaiah to tell us: my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways—oracle of the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts. [Is 55: 8-9]

And thus, Paul exclaims: Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given him anything that he may be repaid?” For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. [Rom 11:33-36]

by the power at work within us

This power is the power of God the Father as Paul stated earlier in the quote: to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self. Do I truly appreciate this power, sense this power, acknowledge this power. I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me, [Phil 4:13] or, as it is translated in the King James Version, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. This is the power of the Holy Spirit that is within us.

This power is not only for our daily grind: I labor and struggle, in accord with the exercise of his power working within me. [Col 1:29] It is also what enables me to face the extraordinary challenges in my life: But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength…The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom. [2 Tim 4:17-18] And, since we know all things are possible for God [Mk 10:27], we should also realize that, since He answers all our prayers and is with us always, He has given us the same promise: if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. [Mt 17:20] Therefore, I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong. [2Cor 12:9b-10]

to him be glory

To Him…again, the Father.

Be glory. There seem to be nine different Hebrew words for glory. It can be a verb or a noun. Here it is a verb, to give glory, to praise, to honor, to glorify.

In a sense, it seems rather absurd to think that I, a mortal creature, can give glory, praise and honor to You, my Creator, God. But, upon reflection, I actually do and can. So, too, each particle of Creation, including my self, by virtue of the magnificence of simply existing, even prior to it being a particular manifestation of, an emanation God, is worthy of notice. God is worthy of praise and glory because of its being and reflection of Him. Thus, I do give God glory simply by being me, even before I am aware of Him, even as the original cell in my mother’s womb.

This particular type of passive giving of glory by essence and existence we share with all the rest of Creation. This is why creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. [Rom 8:19-21]

But, since I not only exist, since I am not only a sensate being, but a reflective being, I can actively recognize God as my creator, as the Creator of all the beauty, all the grandeur, all the magnificence around me, and beyond that, witness to the fact that He revealed Himself to me, reached out to me, knows of my distress, my joys, my sorrows and even my sins, in which I purposely decide to go against the inner compass of the conscience He bestowed on me in His wisdom to lead me back to Him, and yet He still loves me, He loves me regardless, unconditionally. In this moment of realization, I can respond in awe, in reverence, in amazement, in incredulity, in joy, and fall in love once more with the One is Love and who has expressed His love for me unconditionally. For that, if nothing else, I will actively give Him glory, adoration and praise, now and forevermore. Glory be to You, Father, and to You, Son, and to You, Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning [passive by all creation], is now [active by all salvation] and ever shall be [active and passive by all re-creation], world without end. And let the people say: Amen!

in the church

Glory in the church. A bit of an odd phrase for Paul to insert here. He has been dealing with spiritually amazing and miraculous things, the breathe, length, height and depth of God’s love and the fullness of God, and all of a sudden, the church is given the responsibility of giving God the Father glory.

Upon reflection, perhaps it is just from the vantage point of my 21st century ecclesia where we seem to be so immersed in social action and world-wide poverty and upheaval in the church itself that it may seem difficult to perceive the glorification of God. But, again, this is just another wonder of God that we are able to work with Him to redeem from this social sin His world and, thus, give Him glory for His faithfulness to all His people, for His unconditional love for saints and sinners alike, for the evolutionary salvation of structures and street people simultaneously, and for the continuous unveiling over time of the wonders of His Kingdom on Earth. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen. [Rev. 7:12]

and in Christ Jesus

Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you.[Jn 17:1b] The Father gives glory to the Son by making Him the Christ, the Redeemer, the Risen One. In turn, Jesus glorifies the Father for having done great things for Him and He joins in His mother’s hymn: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. [Lk 1:46-47] When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own,…I always do what is pleasing to him.[Jn 8:28-29] He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him. [Phil 2:8-9] Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. [Jn 13:31b]

to all generations,

Paul ends this prayer with a request to God to continue this glorification of the Father not just at the moment he wrote this but always. He expresses this first in mortal, temporal terms, i.e. generations. This glory is a responsibility passed on from father to son, from mother to daughter, in perpetuity. As long as mortals continue to have children, as long as this world of humanity continues to exist on a temporal plane, it is our duty to glorify God, in the Church and in Christ, for the love and the power He has shown and expended for us.

forever and ever. Amen.

But not only will we glorify God on earth as mortals. When we are raised and join the heavenly Church Triumphant, there too we will raise our voices and acclaim the Father as our God. “Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” [Rev. 7:12]

And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. [Phil 1:9-11]

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.


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