Tension and tears muffled my friend’s voice during a recent call. “I think I’m falling apart,” she confessed.
She had good reason. A refugee, she was now struggling to navigate the complex immigration process amid the COVID pandemic. Delays and detours had thwarted each step on her already arduous journey to a new life in the U.S.
A few days later, another friend sent a frantic text. “I’m shattered,” she wrote; a close relationship had suddenly unraveled.
Not long afterwards, I found myself gripping the steering wheel in a traffic jam, frazzled by a long day at the office. “I feel like flying to pieces, Lord,” I prayed. “Please help.”
Amid pandemic, protests and political contention, the fabric of our lives has been badly frayed. It’s all too tempting to patch those threads with passing pleasures, cynicism and even despair. We long for stability, and we wonder if we can vote into office, buy it at the store or stream it on Netflix.
But while “all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now” (Rom 8:22), reality isn’t disintegrating as quickly as pundits predict.
That’s because, as St. Paul reminds us, Christ himself “is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col 1:17).
During one of his many imprisonments, Paul wrote to a group of Christians he hadn’t yet visited — the Colossians, whose ancient city was located near modern-day Honaz in Turkey. After embracing the faith, the community was troubled by rogue teachers who sought to distract believers’ gaze from Christ and refocus it instead on angels, astral powers and ascetical practices.
Epaphras, who had established the congregation, sent word to Paul in prison that the Colossians were in danger of losing their spiritual grip. In response, the Apostle penned a deeply encouraging letter that reminded the faithful to focus on the One in whom “were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible” (Col 1:16).
Two thousand years after Paul’s letter, modern eyes continue to widen at the marvels of both the seen and the unseen.
Physicists have determined there are four fundamental forces that bind nature: gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. (There’s even talk of a fifth force, one that may explain how these four interact.) And as they have probed the atom ever more intensely, scientists have found increasingly smaller particles beyond electrons, protons and neutrons — quarks, positrons, muons, gluons, neutrinos, mesons, hyperons. At the Large Hadron Collider — a 27-kilometer underground accelerator near Geneva, Switzerland — researchers smash particles with the help of superconducting magnets, hoping to discover how matter works by breaking it apart.
“You do not know what stuff is, you who hold it in your hands,” observed scientific journalist Robert Kunzig. “Inside the proton lies the deep, unsettling truth: Stuff is made of nothing, or almost nothing, held together by glue, lots of glue.”
You don’t need to be a particle physicist to know that bonding agent is quite simply the love of God — the love that created all things, the love that redeemed all things, and the love that holds all things together in a heart that was torn to make ours eternal, and one with his.
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