Messengers of the mystery

Friday, February 15, 2019 - Updated: 12:36 pm

By Dr. 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 available. There are barriers beyond which reason cannot go. Yet, even though we do not see, we still believe.

Faith lets us 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 Corinthians 2:16).

Many of God’s ways will never yield to our analysis. How, then, is it possible to be a messenger 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 what the other is feeling, but answers are not forthcoming.

We are at the threshold of what St. John of the Cross called “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 the context of modern ministry, we need more than ever to be messengers of the mystery. Our faith is under attack by forces from without like secularism and forces from within like inexcusable, abusive behaviors on the part of laity and clergy, who in public may act like “pillars of faith” but who in private lead amoral, duplicitous lives.

Faith in Christ, in the church, in the sacramental life, in the sacrifice of the cross and the hope of the Resurrection arm us for the battle we face against principalities and powers. To resist this attack, we need to stand firm and undergo purification.

Faith, strengthened by prayer, fasting and such spiritual disciplines as silent Eucharistic adoration and sacred reading, will help us to run the race to the finish (see 2 Timothy 4:7).

When hope seems to be lost, messengers of the mystery strive to enkindle renewed confidence in God’s promise to be with us always, from now until the end of the world. Belief in the paschal mystery, in the dying and rising of Jesus, to which we cling in the darkest hour, is a mystery beyond anything tangible, yet to us it is as real as the presence of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

Messengers of the mystery enter into the unknown depths of loving union with the Trinity in every facet of their ministry. St. Teresa of Kolkata so loved the dying souls she bathed and dressed that she brought a smile to their lips, possibly for the first time in their lives. 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 love them as if they were Jesus himself. That was the secret of her missionary ministry, not any thought of worldly success but every expression of charity.

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 certain questions concerning birth and death may elude us, but in faith this puzzlement no longer bothers us.

Most of our existence is a mystery we will never fathom. As the apostle Paul reminds us:

“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 Corinthians 15:51-52).

We believe in the word of God, and that is enough. We hope in what is unseen, and we love whether or not we receive love in return. What a mystery life is! We mourn the death of a loved one, and there is Christ’s minister to comfort us.

Such is the mystery and the miracle of discipleship, recorded so succinctly and devoutly in the joyful, sorrowful, illuminative and glorious mysteries meditated upon when we pray the rosary: the mystery of the Virgin birth; of a crucified Messiah; of the feeding of 5,000 with a few loaves and fish; of the rising of Jesus from the dead.

The central revelation of our faith is the greatest mystery of all, the one without which, according to Paul, Christianity would never have come to be. If there is one mystery we as its messengers must incorporate into all that we are and do, it is this:

“… (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 Peter 1:3-9).

Muto is dean and executive director of the Epiphany Academy of Formative Spirituality in Pittsburgh’s Beechview neighborhood. Visit www.epiphanyassociation.org.

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