Messengers of the Mystery

Messengers of the Mystery
Susan Muto

In an informational age like our own, it is embarrassing to admit that certain questions defy explanation. The circumstances surrounding them remain a mystery to the best minds. There are barriers beyond which reason cannot go. Yet, even though we do not see, we still believe.

In faith, we confirm the ultimate goodness of God, whose ways remain a mystery to us: “For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16).

Since God’s ways will never yield fully to our analysis, how is it possible to be messengers of the mystery?

On many occasions, confronted by questions concerning the suffering of the innocent or the suddenness of natural disasters, we show affectionate empathy; we try to feel into what the other is feeling, but answers are not forthcoming.

We are at the threshold of what St. John of Cross (+1591) names “naked faith.” It alone enables us to pass through the midnight moments of life when no explanation for what is happening makes any sense at all. That is when we stand under God while knowing that we do not understand!

In an era when our faith is under attack by forces from without like moral relativism and forces from within like acting one way in public and another in private, we need messengers of the mystery, who witness to faith in Christ, in the Church, in the sacramental life, in the sacrifice of the Cross, and in the hope of the resurrection. Belief in the Paschal Mystery, in the dying and rising of Jesus, is the bedrock to which we cling in the darkest hour.

St. Teresa of Calcutta loved the dying souls she bathed and dressed because for her they were Jesus. She did not try to penetrate the reason why God had allowed them to plunge into this state of filth and despisal. That was a mystery to everyone. Her duty was to care for them as the Lord asked her to do. That was the secret of her missionary ministry, not the thought of worldly success but the desire to enter into the unknown depths of loving union with God, no matter what she did.

In our day, when everyone seems to have or to want an answer to everything, from the makeup of the cosmos to the moment of conception, it is refreshing to admit that there is so much we do not know. Answers to even the most basic questions concerning life and death may elude us but in faith this mystery no longer bothers us. As the apostle Paul says:

Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we
will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,
at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead
will be raised imperishable and we will be changed (1 Cor 15:51-52).

Such is the mystery and the miracle of our being its messengers. We believe in the word of God. We hope in what is unseen. We love whether or not we receive love in return.

The central revelation of our faith, the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, is the greatest mystery of all. Christianity would never have come to be were it not for the fact:

“…[that] by his great mercy [Christ] has given us a new birth into a
living hope through the resurrection…from the dead, and into an
inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in
heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through
faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time…although
you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not
see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable
and glorious joy. For you are receiving the outcome of your faith,
the salvation of your souls (1 Pet 1:3-9).

To live in the world without being of the world is possible only when we let the words of Jesus illumine the choppy seas and treacherous cliffs that we are navigating. Christ’s light lets us discern when it is necessary to follow directions that at first sight do not correspond to the inner compass that points to our true self. Without that light, we risk losing the sense of our identity and our direction. We can get bogged down in a morass of substitutes for the transcendent or, enchanted by the newest and the latest, lose our way in keeping up with short-lived fashions.

Following what is “in” at the moment distracts us from what is lasting and truly of the Lord. Defining ourselves in terms of popularity and prestige, fulfilling secular roles to win the approval of others, allowing ourselves to be swept along by the tide of the media, beguiled by the easy path of cheap conformity to worldly standards, betray the Christian commitments that ought to permeate and transform whatever we do. When we find ourselves conforming to patterns of living alien to our Christian calling, we can correct our course by remembering that we are “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor 5:20), entrusted by him to bring the “message of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:19) to a world wounded in soul and body because of sin and more than ready to ask for forgiveness.