Mystery

What Is A Frog?

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God … and trust in Me
John 14:1-12

Mystery

It is said that our present Age — our modern secular Age, so called — lacks a proper sense of reverence for the awesome mystery of life. Modern man, it is said, has lost the capacity to dwell on the wondrous mystery of a creative order grinding and groaning its way toward a fulfillment that transcends all human understanding. Today’s people, it is also said, are interested in facts, and little else. Accordingly, the process of “knowing” is narrowed down to collecting data, and, reducing them to a simple statement of fact. For example, two men, strangers to each other, sat side-by-side on a big jet airliner. After takeoff, they struck up a conversation that went something like this …

First man: “What do you do for a living?”

Second man: “I’m an astronomer. I teach astronomy on the University level. And what do you do?”

First man: “I’m a clergyman, pastor of a small Church in Indiana.”

Astronomer: “Well, I used to go to Church when I was growing up, but I haven’t gone in years. Why should I? You see, long ago I came to the conclusion that religion, basically, is just being good to your neighbor. That sums it all up. That’s what religion is all about.”

Pastor: “That’s very interesting. Now I’m no expert in your field, but I think astronomy can be summed up in, “Twinkle twinkle, little star/How I wonder what you are.”

Modern secularist society’s way of “knowing” is to be objective. Thus, the astronomer’s notion that the whole business of religion can be summed up in a single, simple statement of fact. It’s saying in effect, “The way to know about anything at all — the way to know about religion — is to strip yourself of all your prior conceptions, all your traditions, all the time-honored longings and yearnings and hopes and aspirations that are part of your sacred heritage, all the rituals, all the miraculous events, all the inspiration, all the mystery, all traces of reverence and awe and wonder — strip it all away, detach yourself, be objective. That’s the only way to know for sure.”

Follow this advice and you join the ranks of Society’s onlookers, trusting only yourself to pass judgment on what you are looking at. Follow this advice and everything is up for grabs; everything is open to doubt (even the existence of the unfathomable Mystery of the Creator and Sustainer of the stars and of all of life).

We may try to understand a star in terms of scientific data and scientific calculations, but we cannot cancel out the mystery. Like the grain of wheat or like the mustard seed or like the mighty ocean, it exists by the power of the glorious, awesome, mysterious Invisible Something. Which is to say — not as a matter of fact but as a matter of faith — “It exists by the power of Almighty God!”

Albert Einstein and a well-known clergyman once were engaged in earnest conversation about faith. Said Einstein, “I respect religion, but I believe in mathematics. Probably it is the opposite with you.” To which the clergyman replied, “You are mistaken. To me, both are merely different expressions of the same truth,” Einstein answered, “But what would you say if mathematical science should some day come to conclusions directly contrary to your religious faith?” “Well,” said the clergyman “even though I have a high regard for the competence of mathematicians, I am sure they would never rest until they discovered their mistake.”

What a marvelous example of the trust Jesus calls forth from us in today’s Gospel Lesson … Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God … and trust in Me … I am the Way, the Truth and the Life (Jn. 14:1,6).

Our individual power of reasoning might well bring us to the conclusion that religion can be summed up in a simple statement of fact. But it’s more that that — infinitely more. Religion is about God. Religion is about Creation. Religion is about the who we are and why we are and where we are, and where we’re headed and how to stay the course. Religion is about Mystery that lies beyond all human understanding. Religion is about taking that great “leap of faith.” Again, in Jesus’ words, “Trust in God and trust in Me.”

Jesus is talking about religion. Jesus is talking about seeing life and living life in a God-centered rather than a self-centered context. Jesus is talking about the great “leap of faith ” which empowers us with a religious way of “knowing” that whatever we do, the power to do it comes from God; whatever happens to us, bad as it may seem at the time, does not happen outside the scope of God’s concern. Again, in Jesus’ words …

Trust in God … trust in Me … I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.

What is a frog? “A frog is a small animal with bulging eyes, a croaky voice and long back legs,” says the encyclopedia. Does that simple statement of fact mean we really know what a frog is? And even when the encyclopedia goes on for dozens of pages about all the different species of frog, and their anatomies, and their habitats, and their habits, and all the rest, do we then really know all there is to know about a frog? Or are we still left to ponder the mystery of this creature — its origins, its overall place in the Grand Scheme of things, the “Why?” of its existence?

There is no single thing on earth about which we have total knowledge because all of creation is immersed in the ultimate Mystery which is God. Consider the mystery of life as it unfolds in a marriage relationship, for example. A good marriage that mellows with time is based on the growing realization by both parties that complete knowledge of another human being is never attained. “Married love is balance uneasy,” the saying goes. Meaning, there is always some new discovery to be made; surprises keep on happening. The full mystery of the “other” is never solved.

In the Hebrides off the western coast of Scotland, there is a legend of a sea-god whose greatest desire was to have a human baby …

He was always looking for little babies in the boats passing along the surface of the water from island to island. On one occasion he almost succeeded in capturing one. He surged up behind a small boat carrying several passengers, including a baby boy. As the adults lifted the child from the boat onto the shore, a wave came along and the sea-god could manage only to send a little wavelet into the boy’s heart. The sea-god, momentarily frustrated, settled beneath the waves and was heard to say, “This child will return to me for I have put a part of myself into his heart.”

Years later, the people of the little island village were astonished when, one day, a strong young man got into a rowboat and began to row out to sea, but not toward another island. The villagers called out to him, “There is no island that way.” But he rowed on, and when he was almost out of sight, those who were watching saw him dive into the sea to the god who had put a part of himself into the boy’s heart when he was only a baby.

The legend speaks to the Mystery of the Divine Architect who, in creating us, puts a spark of His Divinity — a bit of Eternity — into our hearts. And He waits longingly for us to immerse ourselves in that bottomless sea of His Divine Love. That much we have been given to know by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That much we need to know. As for all the rest, again, in Jesus’ own words: “Trust God … and trust Me!”

If we imagine that we really know how it will all turn out at the blessed “End Time”– that moment of Ultimate Truth — then we have deluded ourselves into thinking we can program God. Only this much we know and trust: The future is ours because we are God’s children, and He will never abandon us!

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