Year A Ordinary 25
God’s thoughts are not ours. St. Dionysius says that God, “is…as no other being is. Cause of all existence, and therefore… transcending existence.” God alone can say who he is. We cannot. This is why Job stands speechless before the whirlwind, why Moses hides his face before the Glory of Yahweh, the high priest in the temple only entered the Holy of Holies once a year to approach the Mercy Seat.
Have you ever been totally confused by Church teaching? I remember my eyes glazing over when I sat through a 2-hour lecture on the nature of the Trinity in seminary. Or has there been a traumatic event in your life and you wonder why God allowed it to happen? Or is it just plain frustrating that you can’t understand everything?
I know when I first read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it opened up my eyes and made our beliefs seem so complete and simple. I thought I knew everything, then I read it again, then I read St. Thomas Aquinas, and then I realized that I know nothing. God is a mystery and none of us will ever fully understand Him! Or, even though I’ve been training for years, I still learn new facts about some symbolic action that takes place in the mass. I’m a priest I’m supposed to know this stuff!
For instance, I recently learned about how to hold the fractured host in one piece again at the “Behold, the lamb of God. The reason is because when the priest breaks the bread over the chalice, he puts a small fragment into the wine itself, which symbolizes the reunification of the Body and Blood of Christ in his resurrection, so when the Eucharist is held over the chalice right after that the visual symbol of the whole host put back together is fitting.
The Mass is mysterious, the Scriptures are living and active and always seem new and fresh, God himself has endless depths. None of these will ever be fully explored by us or completely mastered. I suppose that’s why faith is described as a pilgrimage. We seek the end of the journey but there’s always one more step to take.
That’s a good thing.
It means that the God we worship is not the product of our own minds, he vastly exceeds our imagination. By definition he will be a mystery. God is not held captive by any philosophy or definition. He is as high as the Heavens are above the earth.
And yet, the Catechism itself begins with the question: “Why did God make you?” The answer: “God made me to know him, to love him, and to serve him in this world, and to be happy with him for ever in heaven.” To say that God’s thoughts are not like ours isn’t to say that we know nothing, or should stop studying and seeking him.
Here’s how it works, this entire universe is an analogy. Have you ever done those tests where you have to answer, “ROCK is to mineral and BIRD is to ________? That’s what we mean by analogy. Another, maybe simpler example of analogy is present in the way we speak every day. People tell me all the time I’m a pain in the neck. Now that isn’t a literal statement, but it might be a true one, because I am like a pain in the neck. People are simply assuring me that I’m annoying.
We know that the world is full of beauty, and hope, and love. That the sacraments bring us new life, and grace, and holiness. These virtues are analogies, showing us that all of these come from God, they are a part of him, and show us what he is like. They are true insights and participations in his very nature, they make us one with him, and somehow the part contains the whole.
This is why St. Paul says that life and death don’t really matter to him. He has God here in the fullness of the sacrament, he has God in the life to come in the fullness of the beatific vision. Or why Our Lord describes heaven in the context of a story or a comparison to something like a vineyard. This is why the sacraments are so simple and yet so profound. The Eucharist shows us a meal, and it truly becomes our spiritual food, our source of life.
We may not know everything, but that’s because we are in God’s story, right now, as he’s telling it. We are precious thoughts in the mind of the divine, and what we experience here on earth is but a foretaste of the heavenly kingdom. So when you’re struggling with how strange his ways can be, or totally baffled by a Scripture passage, or sometimes we even begin to think that we know better than God, we remember that his thoughts are higher than ours, and signs of his love are all around. Sometimes knowledge is lacking, but that’s because he has reached down from a higher realm, he has come close to us, taken on our flesh and redeemed us, and is guiding us toward a destiny beyond anything we can dream or imagine.
The Lord is near to all who call upon him