The ache for the infinite

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I stopped in Barnes & Noble today to pick up a book I needed for next week’s book club meeting. To say that I adore bookstores is an understatement; I can spend hours inside them if I don’t keep track of the time. But there’s also a very bittersweet emotion that comes with seeing so many beautiful books and knowing I will never be able to read all of them. There are so many books in the world! I realize it is foolish to consider myself well-read when there are so very many works I haven’t even cracked open.

My friend who is now in his second year of a PhD program in theology told me that the breadth of things he is expected to learn can be overwhelming at times. When he first started, he said it was like walking into a room filled with beautiful objects, the many treasures of the Church. He would walk around the room in awe of their beauty and their multitude, seeking to study each of them well so that he could guard them, care for them, and keep them in use. As time went on and he walked further into the room, to his surprise he found that there were more hallways beyond, which led to more treasure troves and fully outfitted rooms, an endless labyrinth of knowledge. Suddenly he became discouraged, realizing that he would never be able to know all the things he thought he ought to know, that he could keep walking forever and never see it all.

Here’s the thing: all we could ever need to know is contained within God Himself, and if He so chose, He could impart that knowledge to us in an instant. If anyone writes a book about God, they are not stating anything new; they are repackaging the truths He has already handed down to us. But God chooses to take the fruits of our own devotion—our successful attempts to articulate love—and bring others closer to Him through our works. He chooses to tell His story through our voices.

On Earth, we can have friendships with the saints who have written great works and lived holy lives, but it would be nearly impossible to get to know each of our holy brothers and sisters personally. There are an infinite number of good works we could be doing with an hour here on Earth, a colossal library full of enriching books we could be reading, but we can only do one thing at a time. God knows that our time and resources here are limited. If we rush through many books and hurry to complete many works without putting care and thought into each one, we will miss out on their value. The truth is that there is more meaning to be found in doing something small with great love and care, truly reflecting upon it, than there is in doing many things with haste. It is possible to gain great understanding from reading just a few simple truths when God gives us the graces to do so.

We ache for the infinite—we were made to do so—and one day our desires will be fulfilled. When we are in Heaven, with the gift of the beatific vision, we will see all these great works at once; we will see all the saints before us and know them fully. Every hidden work will be brought into the light and radiate His glory. The feast is coming, and when it comes we will taste every flavor in all its richness. But in the meantime, while we are still so small, just a little crumb is enough to satiate us if we savor it well. We must remember that we worship a God who became small for our sake, the whole universe contained within a little morsel of bread.

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