4th Week of Easter (T)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
SS. Domenico e Sisto, Roma
If you are a fan of mystery novels, you know all too well the temptation to start the latest who-dun-it by reading the last chapter first. By sneaking a peek at how the author resolves the mystery, you then feel free to start at the beginning. Literary purists disparage this habit as a sin against the genre; it's cheating; it's a crime worthy of having your library card revoked! The whole point of reading a mystery novel is to enjoy the tension of not knowing who-dun-it, living with the suspense that the clues produce along the way. If you are not willing to put in the work of trying to figure out the mystery, you should probably stick to romance novels, or science fiction and leave the perils of solving puzzles to braver, stronger souls. Among the souls who gather before Jesus at the Portico of Solomon are those who would skip to the end of the mystery and cheat themselves of an adventure. They plead with him, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus, the author and main character of creation's greatest mystery, replies, “I told you and you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me. . .The Father and I are one.” So, if Jesus has revealed the mystery, if he has already shown them how the story ends, why are they in suspense? Why do these weak souls continue to demand that he end their suspense? Simply put, they know who he is, but they do not believe in him. They have knowledge of his identity, but they do not trust in his ministry.
Here's the thing we need to know about mystery: mystery is not about not knowing; it's not about being ignorant of the relevant facts. You can have all the facts, the critical skills to interpret these facts, and the will to put them all together to form a reasonable conclusion. But even with a reasonable conclusion in mind, with all the facts neatly lined up to support you, you can still have a mystery to contemplate. So, if mystery is not about being ignorant of the facts, then what is it about? Note again what Jesus says to the crowd, “I told you [who I am] and you do not believe.” Knowledge is not enough, knowing is not sufficient to relieve the tension we experience when confronted by the unknown. To understand the mystery of who Christ really is, we must first believe; we must transcend facts, logic, experiment, and evidence, and submit ourselves to the dangerous adventures to be found in trusting Jesus at his word, trusting his work among us: “The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me. . .The Father and I are one.”
It would be too easy at this point to dismiss the art of believing without evidence as a fool's game, a trick to trick the gullible. But dismissing belief as irrational misses the point of what it means to experience mystery. William Blake, the great British Romantic poet, wrote: “Rational truth is not the truth of Christ, but the truth of Pilate.” While Pilate pretends to want a reasonable answer to his question about the nature of truth, all the while hiding his disbelief behind self-righteous suspicion, Christ, the Truth made flesh, stands right in front of him. Pilate has the facts, but he doesn't believe the truth that the facts report. And, like Pilate, those in crowd gathered before Jesus, those tortured by suspense, they know the facts, but they do not believe. And because they do not believe, they cannot hear the voice of their shepherd. They are both blind and deaf to mystery. Their suspense will be eternal.
For those who know the facts about who Christ is and put their trust in the revelation of his words and deeds, the mystery he presents produces joy rather than suspense, hope rather than anxiety. There is no temptation to skip to the end of the story because his word is enough, “I told you [who I am]. . .The Father and I are one.” We don't resolve this mystery, we live it.
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