Mystery in Grace, Love, & Communion
Mystery is by nature elusive, difficult to explain, impossible to grasp. Any attempt to contain it using words or images will fall short, because words and images are simply inadequate, and limited by what our senses perceive. And a description or definition of any kind means that mystery can be contained, examined, measured, and replicated. That is probably why science will only reluctantly concede that something is a mystery. Science believes firmly that most everything that exists, most everything that our senses can grasp, we should be able to contain, measure, and describe in some form. And it makes perfect sense. Why shouldn’t we?
So I looked up unexplained mysteries of science online and I discovered what appears to be an abundance of mysteries—in physics, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, psychology, thermodynamics, you name it. We might think human beings know a lot, or at least the more intelligent among us, but there are many things out there that continue to baffle us, and elude our grasp, things that we cannot explain. I came across paradoxes and conundrums galore involving dark matter and time and tectonic plates and the thousands of birds that mysteriously fall from the sky and fish that wash up on shore. I came upon Easter Island, Stonehenge, the pyramids of Giza, the Bermuda Triangle. Then there’s the creature that lives in the depths of Loch Ness in Scotland, the hairy Sasquatch, and which came first—the chicken or the egg. And if you are willing to ignore any of that, there are still the mysteries of Jack the Ripper, Jimmy Hoffa, and Amelia Earhart, Malaysian Airline flight 370, the socks that disappear from the dryer, and the wire hangers that multiply in the closet.
And then there’s God. If everyone in the world believed in God, God would cease to be a mystery. But the reality of God is not a universally accepted truth. Those who firmly believe every truth has to be proven beyond reasonable doubt do not even know where to begin when dealing with God. And even among those who say they believe in God, there are those who believe because they are told to believe, those who say they believe but really don’t, those who will never publicly admit they believe but will go through the motions, and those who aren’t really sure but want to cover all their bases—just in case that place of eternal fire and punishment does exist.
When we start getting to know another person, we begin with what is external, their specific shape and size, the color of their eyes, their hair, their unique facial features, the sound of their voice, the volume, pitch, and cadence of their speech, their use of certain phrases and expressions, their unique scent or aroma, the way they tilt their head, purse their lips, lift their eyebrow, smirk, snort, giggle, and laugh, the way they walk, sit, stand, fidget, and shuffle. These are just simple markers that taken together help us to identify specific individuals. But there are other more mysterious things about them that only we can catch, things we cannot always measure and explain. Knowledge of these give us an edge. We come to know them like no one else ever will. This gradual self-revelation makes them vulnerable to us, and in turn we respond by revealing ourselves to them.
Each time God reveals himself to us, God shows us in new ways his desire to be known, to be vulnerable, to be loved. And everything we know about God, collectively and personally, gives us opportunity to respond in kind. Some of us are familiar with the experience of trying to catch someone’s attention, someone we find attractive or friendly, someone we want to get to know better, without making it look like we’re trying too hard. We know the frustration when that someone just misses all our signals. So we try harder. We invent new ways of saying “Hi … it’s me” desperately trying not to sound desperate. And when we make that connection finally, and that someone acknowledges we exist, we can share with them our values and convictions and hopes and dreams.
God reveals himself to us first in the simplest of ways, through his creation. When some people see a beautiful sunrise or sunset, they might go one of two ways, either by explaining it in scientific terms—the angle of the sun’s rays hitting earth’s atmosphere and diffusing light through moisture and dust particles creating the deep reds and oranges mixed with strands of wispy clouds and the backdrop of amazing mountains—or they can actually experience personally the boundless care and loving presence of the One who put it all in place.
And of course, God does know what it’s like when we don’t pick up on his signals. But he keeps trying. God is not so easily deterred. But you can’t really go much deeper into a friendship unless the other person first acknowledges you exist. Until we acknowledge that God exists, it won’t be easy for God to share with us more personally about himself.
When God was born a child in Bethlehem to a virgin from Nazareth many, many years ago, the human race came to know God in new ways we had never known before. God revealed himself in his fullness through his Son Jesus Christ, who made known God’s boundless love for us by reconciling us to himself through his passion, death, and resurrection. Many times, Jesus spoke of God’s mercy and compassion, God’s desire to be with us, to give us his very life, and to spend eternity with us. But still there are some who keep missing God’s signals. They prefer to see God as one who points out our misery, who punishes, and who threatens with fire and brimstone. It gives them some measure of control, as much control as a pet has who wears a collar inside of the invisible fence. They are content to know how not to get zapped. But it still eludes them that someone loves, cares, and provides for them. To them, life is still all about not getting zapped.
And before taking his leave, Jesus promised that with the Father he would send us an Advocate, the Holy Spirit who will lead us into all truth. The Holy Spirit would be God’s abiding presence among his people. So God has revealed himself to us as one in three—in grace, love, and communion. It is information many of us still don’t really know what to do with. But then again, maybe God isn’t asking us to do anything with it. It’s like a friend telling you they like slow walks on the beach at sunset. You can nod your head and go “uh-huh.” Or you can find an opportunity to walk with them on a beach at sunset. Your move.
We make the sign of the cross many times each day, calling on God in three persons, reminding us to whom we belong. We often hear at mass–“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Grace, love, and communion. The Son, the Father, the Holy Spirit. Three persons, one God, still a mystery beyond our grasp. We probably know as much about the Trinity today that we did last year at this time. But when you know about your friend like no one else does, wouldn’t you consider that a good thing?
Rolo B Castillo © 2017