All Symphonies Remain Unfinished

Finding yourself a bit restless? Even during this Lenten season…or especially during this season? If so, you are not alone. In a Lent reflection several years ago, Ron Rolheiser wrote:

We are congenitally over-charged and over-built for this earth, infinite spirits living in a finite situation, hearts made for union with everything and everybody meeting only mortal persons and things. Small wonder we have problems with insatiability, daydreams, loneliness, and restlessness. We are Grand Canyons without a bottom. Nothing, short of union with all that is, can ever fill in that void. To be tormented by restlessness is to be human.

Is it possible for us to become more at peace with our restlessness?

Karl Rahner wrote, “In the event of the insufficiency of everything attainable, we come to understand that here, in this life, all symphonies remain unfinished.”

Referencing Rahner’s words, Rolheiser suggests that

in truly accepting that humanity we become a bit more easeful in our restlessness. As Rahner puts it, in this life there is no unfinished symphony, everything comes with an undertow of restlessness and inadequacy. This is true of everyone.

Peace and restfulness can come to us only when we accept that fact because it is only then that we will stop demanding that life – our spouses, our families, our friends, our jobs, our vocations, and vacations – give us something that they cannot give, namely, the unfinished symphony, clear-cut pure joy, complete consummation.

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Simply stop asking from the world and from others more than they can give. Simply accept that no matter how much they give, no matter how good it is, it will never be enough. If we can do that, we can better enjoy what they can give, with the knowledge that it offers only a glimpse of that which will fully satisfy us.


St. Mark

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of St. Mark, the writer of what is thought to be the first Gospel to be written. Mark was a man of few words, and his is the shortest of the four Gospels.

Mark records very few of the spoken words of Jesus, forcing us to focus on Jesus’ actions: calming the storm, walking on the waves, feeding the multitudes, curing the ill and raising the dead. Perhaps because there is less emphasis on words, we find in Mark vivid descriptions, with small details not found in the other two synoptic Gospels.

On the one hand, Mark is quite clear in his emphasis on Jesus as the Son of God and the Messiah. On the other, in the words of Fr. Joseph Mindling,

With an eye for detail not always recorded by the other gospels, Mark shows fascinating aspects of the human side of the Messiah as well: That Jesus liked to eat with his friends, that he used a litte pillow to sleep on in the boat, that he hugged little children and enjoyed being with them, that he did not always hide strong emotions, that he used mud in the performance of a miracle, that he listened carefully to the parents of a little girl who had died, and that he was fearful before he himself died. Individually, many of these observations may not catch our attention, but collectively they deepen our understanding of what it meant for the Son of God to take on our human nature and share our everyday life.

Fully divine, yes. But also fully human. And Mark gives us a vehicle through which to explore that humanity.