In Laudato Si, Pope Francis says that “The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely.” (232) Everything in the universe, be it the smallest bacteria or the largest star, finds its fulfillment in God because it is God who fills all things with himself.
Look, God created the world. That’s the fact. How did it happen? Nobody knows. Is Genesis a literal play-by-play of the creation of the world? Were Adam and Eve real people and did they really meet a talking snake and eat that Red Delicious? Nobody knows. What we do know is this: at some point, somewhere, somehow, there was a primordial event which we call the “original sin” when man chose to shirk the God who loved him and had given him dominion over the earth in favor of seeking his own fulfillment through the satiation of his own desires. Man saw the limits that God placed on him as binding and oppressive, and thus took his quest for true freedom into his own hands.
Tsk, tsk, tsk.
The really stinky part about all of this is that this God-shirking and the quest for self-fulfillment continues even to this day. Why? Lots of reasons, obviously. But a central reason, I think, is this: we’ve forgotten the role of God in the Garden as provident creator. We’ve forgotten those words of Jesus before his ascension: “I am with you always.” We’ve forgotten the truth behinds those words of the pope in Laudato Si: the universe unfolds in God, and God always fills it completely.
We look everywhere for fulfillment, for happiness, and for affirmation of our existence. We want to be affirmed, we want to be told we’re good enough, we want to know we’re lovable. Usually, if they’re like me, people try to accomplish this all on their own by slamming down all of their imperfections and sins, all of those things they feel keep them from Jesus, in whose loving gaze they feel nothing but shame, into some dark, unseen crevice of their soul and they spend their days in seemingly endless emotional exhaustion trying and trying to suppress all of the things about themselves they’ve deemed condemning.
“The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely.”
Nothing make sense until you let God in. Until you stop what you’re doing, whether it’s work or play or whatever, and just rest. “Rest,” says Pope Francis, “opens our eyes to the larger picture and gives us renewed sensitivity to the rights of others.” (237) That is to say that rest de-self-centers us and allows us to look outside of ourselves and truly see the goodness and beauty that surround us, both in the natural environment but also in the hearts of others. “Contemplation,” Bonaventure teaches, “deepens the more we feel the working of God’s grace within our hearts, and the better we learn to encounter God in creatures outside ourselves.” (italics mine) When we come to see the beauty in creatures outside of ourselves, and really take the time to get out of our own heads and away from those destructive lies being whispered to us in our subconscious, we begin to see the absolute splendor of the things God has created. Eventually, one starts to see that, yes, indeed, he is a member of that absolutely splendid creation; he is not just a creature, but a person; not just a person but a son; not just a son, but a beloved heir to a kingdom beyond every imagining. Suddenly, his existence is affirmed, he knows he is lovable, he is noticed and accepted; and all this not by some earthly good or sought after product, but by Jesus. By Jesus who is the King, by Jesus who is the Lord, by Jesus who is the savior, by Jesus who is the most perfect friend.
And, truly, this Jesus is with us always, to the end of the age, present in his Church, most especially in the sacraments, most especially in the Eucharist. Again, Pope Francis in Laudato Si: “The Sacraments are a privileged way in which nature is taken up by God to become a means of mediating supernatural life…It is in the Eucharist that all that has been created finds its greatest exaltation.” (235-6)
“In the Eucharist, fullness is already achieved.” (236) In the Eucharist, that bond of unity and the source of charity, the source and summit of the whole Christian life, all fullness is already achieved. Every ounce of fulfillment that I seek but will never find in Twinkies and video games and Facebook, and, yes, even Chilis is found in the Eucharist, that tiny round host that is in the realest way the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. That tiny host, that beautiful body, “is the living center of the universe, the overflowing core of inexhaustible life.” (236)
“Whenever we gather at the table of the Lord, there is the center of the cosmos.” -Francis Cardinal George
So all of the pain and strife that you feel, put it aside. All of the hopelessness and worry that fills you, put it aside. It sounds far fetched, but it’s already closer than you can imagine: your true fulfillment, my true fulfillment, the truest happiness of all the world is found in the center of everything, the center of the cosmos. And, in what should be an expected plot twist, the center of the cosmos happens to be a tiny piece of bread which has become, in every way, the most beautiful and satisfying thing for which we’ll ever yearn.
“The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely” with the flesh and blood of his Son, the Lamb, who takes away every sin, every pain, every tear, every sorrow, every worry, every strife…and he does it “always, even to the end of the age.”