Monday, May 3, 2010

Embracing Our Incompleteness

“This world is all a fleeting show,
To Man’s illusion given;
The smiles of joy, the tears of woe,
Deceitful shine, deceitful flow–
There’s nothing true but Heaven.”
(Thomas Moore, Sacred Songs)

I’ve always been intrigued by Jesus’ words to Mary Magdalene after His resurrection (John 20:11-18).  Mary is at the empty tomb and she’s weeping because she doesn’t find Jesus there.  She turns away and sees Jesus, but she thinks it’s the gardner because she does not recognize Jesus Glorified.  But Jesus tenderly says her name, “Mary,” and then she recognizes Him.  She reaches to embrace Him, but He says to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father.”
Mary was overwhelmed with joy when she realized that Jesus was alive, risen from the dead.  At that moment, she longed to embrace Him.  But His words are pointed: “Don’t.”  Have you ever wondered why He didn’t He let her embrace Him?

My own meditation on this gospel passage–one that you probably won’t find in any official Bible Commentary–has led me to understand that Jesus did not want Mary’s longing to embrace Him to be fulfilled at that moment; He wanted her longing to embrace Him to remain strong in her heart throughout her life.  It was that longing in her heart which compelled her to be an apostle to the Apostles, bringing them the good news that Jesus was alive.  It was that longing in her heart that led her to live a holy life and to teach others about Jesus.

Jesus wanted to teach her that the longing in her heart was a holy longing that could only be fulfilled in Heaven.  So when He told her not to cling to Him, it was so that she would never let go of that interior yearning to embrace Him, to be with Him.

Don’t we all experience that longing in our hearts? We are fundamentally incomplete here and we experience it everyday.  We experience it when we desire more love, more happiness, more peace, more joy.  We experience it when our hearts get broken, when a loved one dies, or even–dare I say–when our favorite team loses the Big Game (e.g. that infamous 2008 Super Bowl that I’ll never be over).

If understood correctly, this incompleteness is a wonderful grace because it helps us to focus on deepening our friendship with the Lord and our longing for Heaven. If our incompleteness is incorrectly interpreted, then it can lead to deep sorrow because we’ll try to fill it with things that can’t satisfy.

So don’t get discouraged because you feel incomplete.  And don’t believe that you can be completely fulfilled in this life.  If anyone tells you that, they’re lying.  It’s not possible to be completely fulfilled here.  The more fulfillment we experience, the more we long for.  The reason is that we are meant to live forever; our hearts long for Eternity.  This incompleteness is a great grace because it points us to our true Home: Heaven. To paraphrase Peter Kreeft’s aptly titled book, “Heaven is the Heart’s Deepest Longing.”

Only in eternity will we be complete.  So the next time you’re aware of feeling incomplete, instead of being frustrated by it, embrace it.  Let it lead you to deeper prayer.  See it as God’s way of inviting you into a deeper relationship with Him and helping you to joyfully anticipate eternal happiness with Him.

SOURCE: Father Michael Najim  @

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