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Elephant in a Mouse’s Swimsuit

April 8, 2011

It’s easier for an elephant to fit into a mouse’s swimsuit, a Benedictine abbot once explained, than it is for God to fit into our ideas about him. This is an intentionally funny observation, but it’s certainly true, especially in light of today’s gospel.

The people of Jerusalem thought that they has Jesus all figured out. They were convinced that he wasn’t the Christ, because they were sure they knew where he came from! But Jesus simply shook his head and told them otherwise.

Jesus sometimes has to do the same thing with us. We create idols- caricatures of Jesus- and he has to come along and smash them. Usually, like the mouse’s swimsuit, our image of Jesus is just too small. We tend to emphasize one aspect of his person and minimize the others. For instance, we might count upon his mercy, but forget about his justice. We focus on his power, but overlook his humility. We highlight his humanity, but neglect his divinity. And vice versa.

However, whenever we think we have him in a nutshell, the real Jesus eludes us, just as he slipped away from the angry Jerusalem mob. He knows that we’re always tempted to refashion him in our own image. Thankfully, he never stops trying to re-create us in his.

Readings for today’s Mass:

Photo credit: Averain via Creative Commons

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  1. Peter Wolczuk says:

    Thank you for this one Father. How weel I recall the frustration whenever I stumble a bit and try to put Infinity “in a box”
    This reminds me of the camel and needle parable about rich people. I once heard a speaker claim that, in the Holy Land 2000 years ago, the big gates of cities were closed at night so that an enemy force couldn’t sneak up to it in the dark and dash through. If some one wanted to come in after dark they were (so the story went) allowed to enter through what was called the “eye of the needle gate” which was just big enough for one person at a time. If someone wanted to bring a camel through then the camel had to get on its knees and proceed that way to the other side in order to pass under the low transom.
    If this is true it sure sounds like an excellent lesson in humility. It reminds me of the approach to the shroud on Good Friday which I’ve experienced in Byzantine Catholicism.