Finding Jesus in the Mystery

This month's theme for Contemplate-Launch Out! is mystery, the mystery of faith (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 21-28). Everyone loves a mystery but in the Church we use 'mystery' in a particular sense. To call God 'mystery' is to recognise his unfathomable depths: however clever we might be, we have no words that fully capture God. But the great consolation of our faith is that, though a mystery, God is not remote or inaccessible to us. For the divine Word took flesh, lived, and died as a man, as one of us. 'The Word and the flesh, the divine glory and his dwelling among us! In the intimate and inseparable union of these two aspects Christ's identity is to be found' (NMI, 21).

The Pope reminds us Jesus Christ is not half-God, half-man - a sort of demi-God or hybrid. He is fully God and fully human, divine nature and human nature perfectly united. This is an incredible thought and one which remains forever mysterious to us, but it is a true thought nonetheless. If we focus on it, we are able 'albeit with trepidation, to gaze in some way into the depths of the mystery' (NMI, 21). Christians acknowledge Our Lord as a true brother (once a baby, an adolescent, once unjustly accused, wounded and killed); and we acknowledge him too as our God and our Saviour. 'The Church bows down in adoration before the Risen One, clothed in the fullness of his divine splendour, and never ceases to exclaim, "My Lord and my God!" (Jn 20: 28).'

Many people today are comfortable with Christ's humanity, but challenged by his divinity. And as the Pope writes, in other times it was exactly the reverse: people found fewer problems with his divinity, but might struggle more to believe in his real humanity. Our task is to recognise both, the fullness of the mystery. Jesus Christ is true man, like us but without sin, and true God, begotten not created. Our world today desperately needs belief in both natures of Christ: his humanity and his teachings guide us; his divinity and the hope he offers for an eternal future comfort us.

And our world also needs belief in the Incarnation itself. For Jesus's taking flesh is a true 'self-emptying', a model for us all. Jesus was stripped of the glory that was his from eternity, but through this humiliation he was exalted and given the name above all other names (Phil. 2: 9-11). There is hope here for everyone, for the powerless and the persecuted.

In a key section of Gaudium et Spes the Fathers of Vatican Council II taught that Christ reveals the true face of man to all: Jesus is 'fully revealing man to man himself' (22). This is a wonderful thought! So often we look no further than our own faces in the mirror, or the faces of those who look like us or think like us. But if we are to 'face up to' who we really are, there is only one way to turn. It is Jesus who shows us the face of humanity without sin, ourselves as we are truly meant to be.

There is much more to be said about mystery. God's plan for us is a mystery. At Mass we celebrate the 'sacred mysteries' and witness on our altars the 'mystery of faith'; the great doctrines of Trinity and grace are true but true mysteries to us. But all mystery returns to the unfathomable depths of God. In his love for us, he sent his only begotten Son to take flesh. Thus he put a face to the mystery, a face it is very hard not to love.


+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.
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