Filled with the Fullness of God

We’ve been reading from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians for the first Mass reading for the past week. The first part of today’s reading is one of my favorite parts of the letter – Paul’s prayer to God for the people of Ephesus. During my eight-day retreat several years ago, this was one of the passages I prayed with, and I can still remember the power of the experience – of feeling as though the words were being prayed especially for me. Paul prays:

that [God] 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.

When I re-read the passage just now, I remembered my strong response to the phrase “filled with all the fullness of God.” The sense of God’s limitlessness. The sense of feeling completely filled with God’s love, with God’s spirit – a sense I experience now from merely saying the words out loud to myself. And the feeling that my being filled with God neither diminishes God nor anyone else’s experience of the fullness of God.

As to that last, as I look back at my journal entries for that retreat, I remember how struck I was by the communal aspect of being filled with God’s fullness. After one of my prayer periods I wrote of my prayer experience, “Spirit of God flowing not just in me but in all people and therefore a source of not just my union with God but my union with everyone. Not like spokes of a wheel with God’s spirit flowing between God and each of us individually, but God’s spirit flowing through everything, as though we were all in an ocean of God Spirit connecting all of us…Filled with the utter fullness of God, which is limitless…God’s spirit pervading everything.”

God desires for us exactly what St. Paul desired for the people of Ephesus – that we be filled with the fullness of God.