Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time - Fr. Adam Royal
August 30, 2020 - 8:30 AM
The heart of Christianity is fidelity not knowledge. “You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped.” These words of the prophet Jeremiah might just as well be on the lips the apostle Peter. St. Peter had just experienced his high point in the gospel. He had correctly, and before all others, professed the true faith about Jesus. He knew who Jesus was and Christ affirmed the faith of Peter. Christ even rewarded Peter for his faith by naming him the rock upon which the Church would be built, the first pope. Then Peter opened his mouth again and Christ rebuked him. Jesus called Peter Satan. Peter fell from his highest point, to one of his lowest. “You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped.”
That’s just how it is with God. The moment we think we fully understand is the moment we realize that we know nothing at all. We claim that God is an infinite and transcendent mystery, but I don’t think we always take that claim seriously. To say that God is a mystery is not to say that knowing him is impossible, or that he is a puzzle to be figured out. It is to say that he is infinitely intelligible. That is, no matter how much we think we know about him, there is always an infinite amount more to know. The same is true of every characteristic of God.
We say God is love, and we say that with conviction because we have experienced it in our lives. We have all had some moment when we were certain that he intervened in our lives simply because he loves us, or a moment when we were in awe of creation knowing that it was created for our happiness. To say that God is a mystery, is to say that those moments, the moments of intensely realizing his love, are the smallest possible experiences of his love. They are like nothing at all in comparison to the love he has to offer us. To know God and to follow after him is to experience that moment forever. It is to allow the love of God to slowly unfurl within us, filling us and even overflowing what we thought possible. It is the same with God’s goodness, mercy, and every other attribute.
Christianity, the faith which Christ gives us, is not reducible to a body of knowledge. It isn’t about memorizing all the facts about God or every subtle argument of theology. Such a task is impossible and, by itself, has little value. The faith is, first and foremost, an encounter with God, an encounter with his love in the person of Jesus Christ. It is something that is to be experienced and then handed over to others. It is not intended to be consigned to books and academic debate. The faith, the encounter with Christ, should burn within us. To hold it in, to hoard it for ourselves, should weary us, as it did the prophet Jeremiah. It should break us down until we finally allow it out, until we allow the love of God which we have known to flow out of our hearts into the hearts of those around us, until his Spirit has drawn all people into his mystery.
But for all those highs of zeal and love, there will also be lows. Sometimes, like Peter and Jeremiah, we will feel like we have been duped. Thinking we were on the right path, confident we knew the way of God, reality will smack us in the face and we will know with certainty that we actually know nothing at all. Such is life, and such is life with God. In those moments we must not despair but, like Peter, we humble ourselves, we ask for mercy and we continue on our way. We continue the journey towards the infinite mystery of God.