My experience has taught me that God takes great delight in showing us ways to receive his love, ways to live in it and ways to give it away. There seem to be no end to these pathways God puts in front of us to lead us to his heart.
When I was an adolescent at (the Academy of the Sacred Heart) Lake Forest, I began to discover this love. I so looked forward to First Fridays. They were days set apart from ordinary days by what we wore, what we did and what we ate. What I looked forward to with great eagerness was Mass and the proclamation of Ephesians 3:
… This then is what I pray … that Christ may live in your hearts through faith, and then, planted in love and built on love with all God's holy people you will have the strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth; so that, knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond knowledge, you may be filled with the utter fullness of God.
Those four words: breadth and length, and height and depth, defined God’s love for me and took hold of me as I tried to penetrate their substance. I would take each word and try to plumb its meaning, understand its essence and delve into its implications.
Of course, I never could. I couldn’t even begin to scratch the surface of their significance. Even then, God’s love captivated me and amazed me. Today, the passage still draws me in, further and further onto the pathway, into the mystery and overflowing fullness.
And now I contemplate this image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. The image puts flesh on the “length and breadth, the height and depth,” for his face seems to reveal someone whose love for his sheep has taken him to excruciatingly painful places, rocky paths and precipices, places where nothing less than his whole self was required and given for the sheep in his flock. There is only gentleness and care etched in his long-suffering expression, while his tender arms enfold his lamb. The shepherd’s heart and the cross of his life-long effort to protect and provide, guide and comfort are exposed, completely visible for all to see. The lamb knows his voice and returns his love in the posture of utter trust. The lamb is home.
Reflection by Georgie Blaeser, RSCJ