February 3, 2006

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Ah, sweet mystery of life—and death!

Once upon a time, we couldn’t wait to hear a weekly radio program called “I Love a Mystery.” But then, don’t we all love a mystery?

One reason the show was so effective was just because it was on the radio. Listeners had to use their imaginations to set the scenes and flesh out the characters presented in the radio scripts, with no visual aids to help (or hinder) them.

In fact, this was the best way to make the stories mysterious since human imagination is more creative than any ready-made picture story. Other radio programs of that time, including “Suspense” and “Inner Sanctum,” were equally frightening.

The fact that so many of us listened regularly to these stories proves once again that we love to surrender ourselves to mystery. There’s something delicious about the unknown, the possibilities of terror and the irrational in ordinary lives. There’s something so satisfying about solving the mystery and putting the scary thing away—whatever it is.

Perhaps this love of mystery is not just coincidence but, rather, a kind of built-in need for divinity. It’s very human to ponder life’s beginnings and endings, the meanings of events and all the unknowns in our existence. But the important thing is the answer we give ourselves.

The Catholic Church seems to be one of the few remaining Christian Churches that claims mystery as an essential component of the faith. Our entire Scripture and tradition are involved with mystery: the mystery of a supernatural, omniscient, omnipotent God who made us, and our world, just to share God’s love.

Other mysteries flow from the first. There is the mystery of the Trinity, of the Virgin Birth, of the Resurrection and the Ascension. There are the mysteries concerning the Blessed Virgin Mary, including the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, and the mysterious miracles that have occurred throughout history.

Then there are the mysteries of grace, which the Father gives us to help us on our life journey, mysteries of redemption and renewal and nourishment in the Blessed Sacrament. Only God is perfect. Human creatures need help, which God gives us purely out of the same love shared in our creation.

Sad to say, surrender to divine mystery is not present in some Churches today, or in the lives of people who don’t think they need to believe in a God. Somehow, listening to God in silence, praying to know God’s will and waiting patiently for God to act are considered cop-outs in light of all the world’s needs.

Instead, Churches must become social service agencies or political blocs or advocates for this or that human right, cause or need. We’re sure that human scientific knowledge will provide all explanations. We, not God, are responsible for everything, and it’s we who must solve every human problem.

Wow. What a terrible load we put upon ourselves. What a depressing burden life becomes when we realize our inadequacy, as we always will, no matter how good our intentions.

Instead, let’s have some humility here. Without ceasing to constantly serve human needs, let’s also surrender to the mystery of the truth of God’s love. Let’s live in joyful hope every day of our lives.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


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