As the Class Clown (1972), George Carlin asks a sarcastic question probably already old at that point, “If God is all-powerful, can he make a rock so heavy that he, himself, cannot lift it?” It was funny in the right context but some folks actually offer it as a serious question, intending by the illogic to prove the illogic of what they think of as real religion. The usual reply is to point out that the question is, itself, a meaningless contradiction in English therefore it can’t be meaningful in theological conversation. It ranks up there with “Can God make darkness light? Can God make death life?” Oddly we know the answers to those questions to be yes. So…
It came to me that not only can he make this thing, but he has already done so. He has made something he cannot move: the human heart. This came to me this morning reading this passage from the 1952 publication, My Way of Life: A Pocket Edition of St Thomas‘ classic, the Summa Theologica.by Walter Farrell, OP, and Martin J. Heally.
It would be more accurate to say that God contains us rather than that we have God within us, just as the soul more properly is said to contain the body than to exist in the body. A man can be put in prison, or an animal in a pen; but spiritual things like the soul of a man, the angels, or God are not contained by the strongest or most subtle of fences. We are, in a very true sense, wrapped around with God, penetrated by Divinity, held up every instant by divine power that saturates all of reality and exceeds it. God fills the world as summer sunlight floods a room, he is everywhere in the world as the soul is everywhere in the body; where he is not, nothing is.
Though his great power reaches to the least crevice of our lives, though every futile step of our wandering hearts is clear to his fatherly eyes, though every beat of our pulse proclaims his supporting presence, this is still not close enough for God. Has his knowledge and love of us put us in him rather than him in us, so through the gift of his grace, he is the guest of our minds and the lover enclosed by the arms of our love. He will, in his eagerness for the fullness of our happiness, be ours; in us by our act; known, desired and loved, and so given his sole free and hearty welcome in all the physical world that so depends on him.
God can woo and plead. God can command. God can make one option easier than another, but God cannot – will not – force the human heart. If he were to do so it would cease to be what he made it: his own image in mortal form, his own genius of creativity and choice. God has made something that cannot be moved saved by itself. God waits for us to comply with his grace which is freely given – but can be ignored and even refused outright.
This is the rock that is so big he himself cannot move it: and it is so because he made it so. His almighty power condescended to create the very refutation of his omnipotence. God is so all glorious that he conceived of a way to outdo himself.
And so, my dearest friends, you have a choice: not a once in a lifetime choice, but a daily, or better, moment by moment choice. Do you dance to the tune of all of life or do you seek rather to make your own tune?