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Saturday, April 21, 2012

From the Pastor - "God is in the Details"

A weekly column by Father George Rutler.

Elderly people often think that some of their recollections are unimportant in the grand scheme of things. With the Titanic anniversary still vivid, there are eyewitness accounts of three priests giving general absolution: Juozas Montvila of Lithuania, Josef Benedikt Peruschitz of Germany and Thomas Byles of England. Sister Mary Patricia, a Religious Sister of Mercy, remembered a woman using her hat to stuff a hole in their lifeboat, and Eva Hart said the orchestra really did play “Nearer my God to Thee.” I visited Guglielmo Marconi’s widow, who mentioned that her husband had cancelled his trip at the last moment and was pleased that his radio system on the Carpathia helped to save lives, although other ships closer by had shut down their receivers for the evening. Our own Murray Hill resident, J. P. Morgan, had a ticket but did not use it.

As “God is in the details,” we are grateful for little asides in the Gospel, which the Holy Spirit did not think minor or incidental. Luke’s attention to detail made him the patron saint of artists. John usually gave the larger picture with soaring theology, but he does give poignant details in the Resurrection narrative: how he outran Peter; the shroud and napkin neatly folded in the tomb; what the Risen Christ ate in the Upper Room; the wound in Christ’s side big enough for a hand to fit in; and the number of fish caught when Christ appeared on the Galilean shore. Our Lord wants us to pay attention to these things: “He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in that which is greater: and he that is unjust in that which is little, is unjust also in that which is greater” (Luke 16:10).

There is a tradition that the youngest apostle, as an old man, kept saying over and over again, “Little children love one another,” and some of his hearers thought he might be afflicted with the repetitiousness of a mind growing vague with age. He insisted: “I shall keep saying this, for it is what I heard from the lips of the Master.” John ended his Gospel account: “There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25).

It is old wisdom that the stone on the Easter tomb was rolled away, not so that Jesus might come out but so that the disciples might go in. With His risen body’s character of “subtlety,” the Lord was no longer limited by His own laws of physics, but He did want us to enter in and see how empty the tomb was, so that we might “know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19).

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