The Mystery of Faith

The Mystery of Faith

“I wish to know Christ and the power flowing from his resurrection; likewise to know how to share in His sufferings by being formed into the pattern of his death. Thus do I hope to arrive at resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:10-11 Human beings have always been fascinated by the Mystery of Life and the Mystery of God. We want to live, as fully and richly as possible! We intuitively sense that there is a God, and that somehow in God there lies a missing piece to ourselves. We want to get connected. We have long suspected that somehow the Mystery of Life and the Mystery of God are vitally connected to one another. How are they connected? What is the secret to opening these two mysteries? The search to engage the Mystery of Life and the Mystery of God express man and woman’s desire for fulfillment — their search for their identity and their destiny. Mysteries Before we go further, we need to say a word or two about the nature of mysteries. Mysteries are not things to be understood. To try to understand them only generates exasperation and always ends in frustration. This is why we call them “mysteries”. Mysteries are movements: “dynamic” or power-generating movements. Mysteries yield their content not by being “grasped” with the human mind, but by being “entered into” with the whole of who we are. Because mysteries are movements, they are “entered into” by moving in a certain way. You “enter” into a mystery by teaching and disciplining yourself to move in a certain pattern. The entrance to a mystery is a particular Pattern of Movement. I What Nature Reveals of the Mystery of Life Everything in the natural world can teach us something of the Mystery of Life. If we pay careful attention, Nature itself shows us what lies at the heart of the Mystery of Life. Of all the things that make up the natural world, the Cycle of Seasons “speaks” most disclosively of the Mystery of Life: Autumn “speaks” of Dying, as the living earth surrenders what it is. Winter “speaks” of Listening, as the living earth lies dormant — receptive to new possibilities. Spring/Summer “speaks” of Responding, as the living earth responds to the energies alive within and around it. Together the natural Cycle of the Seasons set forth a pattern: Dying – Listening – Responding This pattern lies at the heart of the Mystery of Life. II What God Reveals of the Mystery of Life The Sacred Scriptures teach us about the Mystery of Life and about the Mystery of God. In all the Sacred Scriptures there can be found none more revealing a “word” about Life and God than that of the Christ, Himself. He is the living and divine Word of God: “In the beginning was the Word; the Word was in God’s presence, and the Word was God. He was present to God in the beginning. Through Him all things came into being, and apart from Him nothing came to be.” John 1:1-3 He became human… “And the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” John 1:4 …for the life of the world: “I came that they may have life and have it to the full.” John 10:10b Nothing in the Sacred Scriptures “speaks” more eloquently of both the Mystery of Life and the Mystery of God than Jesus, the Christ. Jesus teaches us that Dying is at the heart of the Mystery of Life: “From then on Jesus (the Messiah) started to indicate to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly there at the hands of the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be put to death, and raised up on the third day. At this Peter took Him aside and began to remonstrate with Him. ‘May you be spared, Master! God forbid that any such thing ever happen to you!’ Jesus turned on Peter and said, ‘Get out of my sight, you satan! You are trying to make me trip and fall. You are not judging by God’s standards, but by man’s.'” Matthew 16:21-23 “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:25 Jesus also teaches us that Listening is at the heart of the Mystery of Life: “Not by bread alone is man to live but on every utterance that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4 “Sluggish indeed is this people’s heart. They have scarcely heard with their ears, they have firmly closed their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and under- stand with their hearts, and turn back to me, and I should heal them.” Matthew 13:15 “…the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who have heeded it shall live. John 5:25 Finally, Jesus teaches that Responding is at the heart of the Mystery of Life: “Having spoken this parable, He added: ‘Let him who has ears to hear me, hear… those thrown on good soil are the ones who listen to the word, take it to heart, and yield at thirty- sixty- and a hundredfold.’” Mark 4:9,2 “My mother and my brothers and sisters are those who hear the word of God and act upon it.” Luke 8:21 In his teaching, Jesus sets forth the same pattern we saw before: Dying – Listening – Responding Now consider the events in Jesus’ life. None “speaks” more profoundly of the Mystery of God than His crucifixion: “And I — once I am lifted up from the earth — will draw all people to myself.” John 12:32 “…no one comes to the Father but through me.” John 14:6b How does Jesus “draw all people to Himself” and “to the Father”? We learn how this is done from the Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. The Church celebrates these events and their meaning in Holy Week, the high point of the entire Liturgical Year. Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday “speak” of what God is all about and how one is drawn to Him. Holy Thursday and Good Friday “speak” of Dying. The dramatic events that describe Jesus’ dying teach us about a voluntarily laying down of our life in the hope of taking it up again. Good Friday and Holy Saturday “speak” of Listening. The events of Jesus ‘entombment teach us to anticipate the unexpected grace and a gift of new life. Holy Saturday Night and Easter Morning “speak” of Responding. The dramatic events that describe Jesus resurrection from the dead and appearance to His apostles teach us to lay firm, joyful hold of the grace and new life God offers. Here, at the heart of the Mystery of God as we see it revealed in Jesus, we again find the same pattern we saw before. The teaching of Christ and the events of His death, burial and resurrection set forth the same clear pattern we found set forth in Nature: Dying – Listening – Responding These three elements joined together form a movement of heart. They describe an attitude: a pattern of movement to take place in the human heart: “Your attitude must be that of Christ: Though he was in the form of God,he did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather, he emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men. He was known to be of human estate, and it was thus that he humbled himself,obediently accepting death, death on a cross! Because of this God highly exalted him and bestowed on him a name above every other name, So that at Jesus’ name every knee must bend in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth, and every tongue proclaim to the glory of God the Father: Jesus Christ is Lord!” Philippians 2:5-11 Dying means dying to self, Listening means listening for the voice of God and looking for His grace in each moment and situation, Responding means responding to God’s will by laying hold of His grace in each moment and every situation we find ourselves. Dying – Listening – Responding describes the personal attitude we must have toward everyone and everything around us if we want to engage life fully. It is this personal attitude toward everyone and everything around us that will yield from them the reality of who they are and the fullness of all they have to offer. One enters fully into life by Dying, Listening and Responding. Dying – Listening – Responding also describes the personal attitude in which we must stand if we want to encounter God. It is an attitude that permits God to draw us to Himself, an attitude that enables us to enter communion with Him and to receive from Him gifts of wisdom, joy, strength and power. One is drawn to God by Dying, Listening and Responding. Dying – Listening – Responding describe the personal attitude that draws us not only into the Mystery of Life but into the Mystery of God as well: “I wish to know Christ and the power flowing from his resurrection; likewise to know how to share in His sufferings by being formed into the pattern of his death. Thus do I hope to arrive at resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:10-11 “If you really knew me, you would know my Father also.” John 14:7a “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; John 14:6a “I came that they might have life and have it to the full.” John 10:10b III About the Pattern Let’s take a closer look at the pieces of this Pattern of Movement that is so essential for engaging Life and encountering God. about Dying… Dying is the first piece to the Pattern, the first step to the Movement. “Dying” to what? Dying to what we are in order to be receptive to what we can become. Dying to what we think something is in order to be receptive to what something really is. Dying to our ideas about the way things are in order to be receptive to the way things could be. Dying to what our relationship has been in order to be receptive to what our relationship can become. Dying to conclusions in order to be receptive to possibilities. Dying to the structure built in order to be receptive to the movement taking place. Dying to what you were for me yesterday in order to be present to what you want to be for me today. Dying to the past in order to be born again in the present. Dying to a “self” of our own construction in order to be resurrected to a “self” of God’s new creation. We are forever dragging the past into the present, and by doing so, closing down all the vital possibilities of the present. We all have a personal history. We should carry the lessons of this history with us. But this is something far different than dragging the past into the present. The difference has to do with the baggage of expectations and conclusions. Expectations are “baggage” drawn from the past that narrow possibilities in the present. Conclusions are “baggage” drawn from the past that shut down and close out possibilities in the present. The reason that our expectations and conclusions are so dangerous to us is that our future is conceived in the possibilities of the present. The Mystery of Life is the dynamic movement of possibilities in the present, and God is the inexhaustible origin and dynamic source of these possibilities. We ought to have some sturdy expectations of ourselves but few expectations of others, our relationships or the things around us. We ought never to draw conclusions about either ourselves, others, our relationships or the things around us. The decision to die continually to what was yesterday, is the choice to be reborn, re-formed, and resurrected eternally in the possibilities of today. We do not die just to be dead. That would truly leave us at a “dead end”. The “dying” we are talking about is for something. It is for life. But God is the Author of Life, God is the inexhaustible origin and dynamic source of all life’s possibilities. Ultimately, our “dying” is for God. This “dying” only works if it is oriented to God — if it is for God. We die to our conclusions to live for God’s possibilities. “I solemnly assure you, unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it produces much fruit.” John 12:24 about Listening… The “dying” we have been speaking about is for a purpose. It is to create an emptiness that will permit receptivity. It is to create a silence that will permit attention. It is to create a poverty that will permit enrichment. It goes almost without saying, no one ever listens so well as the dead. We are never so open to possibility as when all assumption has been slain. When all preconceived ideas and self-drawn conclusions lie dead, then can the voice of God be heard — and it is to hearing the voice of God that our Mystical Dying, and for that matter, all dying is oriented: “…the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who have heeded it shall live. John 5:25 Only the mind of God can conceive the inconceivable. Only the imagination of God that can image the unimaginable. Only the voice of God speaks to us of inconceivable, unimaginable new possibilities. God and God alone inspires them in us and opens them up for us. This is true Hope, this is real Future, this is eternal Life . “Not by bread alone is man and woman to live but on every utterance that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4 The Mystery of Life is the coming to be of in-conceivable, unimaginable new possibilities; and God alone is the inexhaustible origin and dynamic source of them. You cannot “figure out” the Mystery of Life. It is a useless and futile effort to try to do so. Instead of figuring it out, we should be accepting the invitation to enter it. You cannot “engineer” an encounter with the Mysterious God, it is stupid and self-disintegrative to attempt it. Instead of engineering encounters, we should be placing ourselves in a position to allow ourselves to be drawn to Him. The Art of Dying, the Art of Listening and the Art of Responding are the Arts of Life eternal. They are also the arts of the knowledge of God. about Responding… In the end, we must have within us the will to respond to God. We must grab hold of the new possibilities He shows us and be willing to make use of the grace of who we are and what He provides us: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s lead.” Galatians 5:25 We must be ambitious in our dying for God, ambitious in our listening to God, and ambitious in responding to all God offers: “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37 about the Pattern… What does the Pattern, as a whole, actually call for? It calls for a Movement of Heart toward the people and things around us. It calls for us to stand before the people in our life and the elements of our world in a sacred way: Dead… to our expectations of them, to our conclusions about them; Listening… for new possibilities about them and with them; Prepared to Respond… to the new things we see in them. This Pattern of Movement is the “Entrance Point” into Mystery. It is the attitude in which to stand in order to fully engage the Mystery of Life. It is the attitude in which to stand in order to be drawn by the Holy Spirit into the Mystery of God. This Pattern is the point of engagement for the Mystery of Life and the point of ascension into the Mystery of God. Here is a Pattern of Movement that opens us to infinite possibility, that gives us accesses us to a horizonless future, that inexhaustibly generates new life, that makes available to us all of Life’s richness, and that places us in a disposition to be embraced by the Author of Life and drawn by that embrace into a Mystery which no mortal could image or conceive of entering: Communion with God! “Anyone who loves me will be true to my word, and my Father will love them; We will come to them and make our dwelling place with them” John 14:23 IV Making the Pattern… Pattern making is a Movement of the Heart. The first piece, the Dying, takes place by retreating within. It is forged in prayer. It is not meant to be done alone, but in the company of Jesus, the Christ. He died first so that he might teach us the Art of Dying — of surrendering all that we are, all that we expect, and all that we imagine into the hands of Him who can fashion for us more than we could ever hope either to become or receive: “Those whom (God) foreknew, He predestined to share in the image of His Son, that the Son might be the first-born of many sisters and brothers.” Romans 8:29 “It is he (the Christ) who is…the beginning, the first-born of the dead.” Colossians 1:18 “To (God) whose power now at work in us can do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine — to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations, world without end. Amen” Ephesians 3:20-21 In the “Prayer of Dying” we bring our expectations and our conclusions about ourselves and others to the little Garden of Getsemani that lies within each of us. There we pray with Jesus: Abba (O Father), Let me die to myself in loving You. “You have the power to do all things… Let all be as you would have it, not as I.” [Mark 14:36] In this Prayer of Dying we let go of all that chains us to the past, that limits the possibilities of the present and that foreshortens the horizon of our future. The second piece, the Listening, takes place back in the activity of the world — moment by moment as we interact with the people and things around us. It too is forged in prayer. In every moment and each new situation you find yourself , pray the “Prayer of Listening”: Abba (O Father), Help me find more in this moment than I have come to expect; Help me see more in myself and in the people around me than I have concluded is there; Help me to listen for possibilities beyond what I know and what I think and what I am comfortable with. Help me to anticipate your unexpected grace; “My sacrifice to you, O God, is a contrite spirit; a heart contrite and humbled…” [Psalm 51:19] The third piece, Responding, takes place the moment we catch a glimpse of the unexpected grace in ourselves, in another or in the situation. Take firm hold of it! Responding begins when we take joy in what God has surprisingly brought to light in ourselves, in another or in the situation we find ourselves. It continues when we give thanks for it. It expands when we explore the new possibilities. It reaches fulfillment when we join our efforts to nurturing and supporting this new Grace to which God has given birth in ourselves, in another or in the world around us. “The one who sat on the throne said to me, ‘See, I make all things new!'” Revelation 21:5 “Everything is possible to a person who trusts.” Mark 9:23