From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace
Fullness. In the midst of Christmas celebrations, many of us know about fullness. Full schedules, full houses, full stomachs, even full trash cans as boxes and wrapping paper are discarded.
Yet all these are temporary, fleeting expressions of fullness. In fact, they distract us from the Source of true fullness, the Word who became flesh and made his home among us. What our hearts hunger for is not another piece of pie, or more activities or the latest gadget, but this grace upon grace that John can hardly describe. Words are inadequate to capture the utter richness of who Jesus is and what he longs to give to us.
I recall a prayer I heard once, offered by Sister Kathleen Flood at a 5-Day Academy for Spiritual Formation. She prayed, asking God to forgive us for being content with crumbs when God wants to give us the entire loaf. And this is what we do far too often—we grab crumbs, holding onto moldy, dry crumbs when a warm, fragrant, freshly baked loaf is offered to us. Whether we think we are unworthy for such a gift, cannot be vulnerable enough to be a recipient rather than a giver, or simply cannot trust that God loves us so generously, we turn down treasure and hold onto trash.
We choose crumbs whenever we choose fear over love, when we are more concerned with security than with generosity, when we struggle to meet expectations rather than relaxing into freedom to be who God created us to be. We especially do it at Christmas when we substitute shopping, food and materialism—dry crumbs—for the freshness that comes with realizing that we are sons and daughters of God, uniquely loved by our Creator.
Only a few recognized or understood Jesus when he lived among us in skin. Even today, many do not understand that Jesus came to set us free from fear, from imprisoning rules and expectations. Jesus came to show us what love is, in all its warmth, freshness and fragrant goodness. There is no end to his grace and love. It is we who choose to live in scarcity, to eat crumbs.
St. Catherine of Siena expresses the abundance, the fullness of grace in this short poem:
We know nothing until we know everything.
I have no object to defend
for all is of equal value
I cannot lose anything in this
place of abundance
If something my heart cherishes
is taken away,
I just say, “Lord, what
And a hundred more
Living in the fullness of grace upon grace, we don’t have to subsist on crumbs, living as if love is a scarce possession. Love begets love, generosity begets generosity and grace is unending and abundant, a fragrant, limitless loaf!