Embrace the Mystery

Embrace the Mystery

June 11, 2017 | N W | Courage, Faith, Guest Celebrants, Self-Reflection, Trinity, Trust

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
June 11, 2017 – Year A
Readings: Ex 34:4B-6, 8-9 / Dn 3:52-56 / 2 Cor 13:11-13 / Jn 3:16-18
by Rev. Paul O’Donnell Duggan, Guest Celebrant

Are you familiar with Rabbi Harold Kushner? His son had the serious disease of premature aging which caused him to die at the young age of fifteen. So Rabbi Kushner wrote a book, Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

I think any of us could write a book on the same topic; I know I could. But if I ever met Rabbi Kushner, I would want to chat with him about his choice of title.  You see, I think he has it the wrong way around.  For example, when I was shopping in a sporting goods store recently, the young clerk noticed my soccer shirt and heard my Irish accent, and asked me, “Oh, do you play for Manchester United?” Instead of saying “No, I’m just a supporter, I said “Yes I do!” When I went outside, I was upset with myself for telling that white lie.  I wonder if Rabbi Kushner had the same thing happen to him when he selected this title.

If you think about it, the title seems to make some assumptions.  First, “Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People” presupposes that bad things should never happen to good people.  Second, it presupposes that everything has to be explained.  Third, it leads to the conclusion that we don’t need the existence of God in the world.

I think there is a better title that more closely states the truth about this situation.  How about this:  When Bad Things Happen, What Do Good People Do?  Doesn’t that do a better job of offering us some help? It presupposes that bad things are going to happen, and when they do happen, it asks what good people do.  Think of Jesus on the cross.  It was terrible; awful things happened to Him.  What did He do?  First, He prayed; second, He forgave his executioners, and third, He also forgave the repentant thief.

Another example is that of Paul and Silas.  They were spreading the Good News in a town and what happened to them?  They were attacked by the crowds, beaten with rods, arrested and then thrown in prison.  The guard was instructed to watch them carefully so he tied their feet and placed them in the innermost cell.  During the night, while Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns, a great earthquake struck, and all the prison doors were opened.  The jailer was terrified and was going to kill himself, but Paul and Silas called out to him that they had not escaped.  As a result, the jailer took them to his home, cleaned their wounds and fed them.  Then, he and his household converted to Christianity that night.  All this happened because Paul and Silas embraced the mystery of the situation they had been placed in and turned to God in their time of difficulty.

Yet another example is a story of Moses.  When he experienced God’s presence, he bowed down and worshipped.  Some things just could not be explained, and Moses accepted that.

Today is the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, One God in three Persons.  How does one explain that?  No, we use the word mystery because we can’t explain it.  We even welcome it as a mystery beyond our understanding.

Remember how Peter responded when the Lord told the crowds they must eat His Body and drink His Blood.  The crowds walked away, unwilling to accept what Jesus said.  When Jesus asked His apostles if they would also leave, Peter responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of everlasting life.”  Even though Peter didn’t understand what Jesus said any more than the crowds did, he accepted that it was a mystery.

Here’s an example of someone accepting the mystery of bad things happening:  A priest named Dennis McConnough Logue, a picture of health, went to the doctor and was told he had cancer and had about six months to live.  He lived only six weeks.  At his funeral, Bishop Daly said that Father Dennis commented, “Why not me, Lord?”  Most people would say “Why me, Lord?” when something bad happens, but Father Dennis embraced the mystery.

Another example is of a young man named Christian.  He had just graduated university and had applied for seminary. The seminary replied “Sorry, you’re two weeks late.  Apply again next year.”  If you look through this world’s eyes, you are inclined to think this was a terrible decision on the seminary’s part.  But if you look through eyes of faith, you accept the mystery of God’s decision.  Christian was encouraged by the seminary to work with a spiritual mentor to prepare for his entry into seminary.  The mentor turned out to be me.  We ended up meeting once a week and that way he became better prepared.  He was such a bright young man, and now he is in his third year of seminary. Instead of being angry with the bad situation, he embraced the mystery of it.

Today’s feast calls us to embrace mystery — the mystery of the Holy Trinity.  Instead of complaining when difficulties strike us, whether they are health issues, financial issues, relationship issues, or other issues, we should ask the Lord for the grace to embrace the situation.  Just like Moses, Paul and Silas, and all the others, we should not ask the Lord “why me” but accept what the Lord has sent and say “Lord, here I am.  Speak to me.”