Oriol, a good Jesuit friend, is fond of the sea and likes to go fishing. A few years ago, while out fishing off the coast of Catalonia with an old man from the local town of Empordà, the fisherman confided in him:
“You priests haven’t thought this through about Heaven.”
Intrigued, Oriol replied:
The fisherman concluded:
“Can’t you see… we wouldn’t all fit in!”
The irony of the anecdote is that a professor of Theology like Oriol knows very well that Heaven is not a physical place, but “the beyond of God”, who is great and powerful enough to make room for all: everyone who has ever lived and who will live in the history of humankind. Christians believe that His magnanimity will keep us from being packed in Heaven like sardines, as the fisherman feared. In fact, at the Last Supper, according to the Gospel of John, Jesus refers to Heaven using the expression, “my Father’s house”, and affirms that “there is a place for everyone” (John, 14:2).
However, the fisherman was right in another sense, which is revealed to me when I visit places where I remember the Jesuit companions with whom I have spent time in my life. Indeed, when I go on vacation with Jesuits in Viladrau or when I visit the Jesuit cemetery in Sant Cugat, I relive so many memories of all those people that I feel I can’t fit them all in. My heart is too small for so many years of community life, or of sharing a mission (in a parish, in a school, at the university), or of sporadic but very significant meetings, or of amusing anecdotes told about this or that companion…
And even though I can’t fit them all in, all these fond memories of Jesuits (and non-Jesuits) have made me who I am today. I will only fully understand who I am when I am aware of all my experiences and my memories… which I can’t fit in!
So, I am largely unknown to myself; the world in which I live is also largely unknown to me, and, finally, the God in whom some of us believe is not fully known to me either.
I am a mystery to myself; the reality of the world is a mystery to me; God is a Mystery to me.
These mysteries can be penetrated only partly by remembering what I experience every day. St. Ignatius proposes saying a nightly prayer recalling everything we have lived through during the day that is ending, giving thanks to God, asking forgiveness for moments of selfishness, and finally trusting the night and the future to the Father.
Finally trusting: “the Mystery remains a Mystery”, said the Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner. I cannot understand or hold the mysteries of my life, of the world, and of God. But I can enjoy them; in them I can abandon myself as joyfully as when I dive into the sea on a beautiful summer’s day.