The attempted assassination of mystery
“Let me ask Google”
It seems that our conversations are punctuated by this phrase nowadays. In the midst of a discussion, we pull out our phone and find the answer, the information, the ‘truth’. We are now able to gorge ourselves from the Tree of Knowledge. There is nothing we cannot know in an instant, nothing we cannot explain.
We have become gods.
Long ago, when we were young and had no knowledge, we marvelled at everything. The smallest things held wonder. My great-nephew is enthralled by dinosaurs. The fact that they were wiped out 65 million years ago and no longer exist is of no consequence. To him they are alive and we who look on are charmed at his innocence and imagination. His mind, like that of all children, is not limited by facts. Children may be thrilled and terrified by the irrational, but they know how to live.
What is Truth?
“What is truth?” Pilate asks Jesus before having him scourged and crucified.
He was voicing the Big Question of the day circulating in the Roman world of the first century. The old gods and traditions were being abandoned. Mass migration within the empire and popular revolt were causing social chaos. Moral certainty was in decline and cracks were beginning to appear in the fabric of Roman power. All that does not seem so different to our times. “What is Truth?” could also be the burning question in today’s post-Trump world.
“What is Truth?” Truth, I believe, is where each fact is connected to every fact including the unknowable ones. More than anything, though, the power of truth comes from harmony among facts – where things fit together even if we do not know how. That harmony leads us into what we mean by mystery.
While perhaps the sin of our age is that we believe we can explain everything, mysterious contradictions will always be a part of the human experience. If everything can be explained, then love would simply become emotional economics: I love because I get something. The opposite of that is unconditional love, loving one’s enemies, loving those who do not ‘deserve’ our love. Why love in that way? That is part of the mystery of love. Love encompasses everything, even the unthinkable.
Jesus was crucified because he was seen as a threat to the religious and civil order. That was how the Pharisees and Pilate saw things. Those were the facts. For them there was no mystery about him. He was simply an agitator.
Jesus crucified and forsaken
When Jesus cried out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” we hear the cry of every human being who has ever lived and who will ever live. He emptied himself to draw every person, every reality, into himself. That was the moment when the separation between God and humanity was closed, when God becoming human was fulfilled and it was the moment of ultimate and absolute love. Every suffering is him. Every suffering now has a meaning. That is the mystery of the Cross and why Love and Truth cannot be assassinated.
Where the crucifixion was the result of a limited understanding of the facts about who Jesus is, the resurrection completely defies the facts. People do not come back from the dead. With the Resurrection everything is changed. Changed utterly. Even the physical is transformed. It is physical but not as we know it.
People and the world can be transformed if we view them with the eyes of the Resurrection. Everyone and everything can be redeemed. This is not simply starry-eyed optimism. It is the power of God entering the world through us, emerging from the tomb of our hearts.
The mission of wonder and awe
As love demands humility, so does mystery. The mystery of God’s love in the events which take place in our lives calls us to stand in silence before creation, before the person in front of us, before the glory of God hidden in each moment.
We have to marvel more – and question less. We need to look at beauty and not distract ourselves by, for example, always photographing it, trying to capture it and imprisoning it on a memory chip. Instead of trying to control beauty and love we need to be drawn into them, into the mystery, to just be silent. Only then will we learn to see the full dimension of our reality.
Ultimately our mission as Christians is not so much to give facts but to bear witness to the love of God, to the experience of mystery.
image - A.M. Baumgarten