September 2, 2016
Dear fellow pilgrims,
I had a hard time finishing the first reading because I was so struck by the first line:
“Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.”
It is one thing to steward land or belongings, to look after and till the soil to bear fruit or to keep watch over precious jewels. However, it is a completely different thing to steward, or be responsible for, a mystery. How do we do that? How does one “steward” a mystery?
Scientists are called to be good stewards of mystery, in that their goals are to ask answerable research questions that probe further into unknown territory within certain fields of study. And part what makes a “good” scientist is that their research questions must always be “tractable,” that is, the question must always be addressable within the confines of the scientific method, which seeks to remove as much error from the act of answering the question as possible. Part of the utility of the scientific method, especially with psychological research, is that it seeks to extract or reveal the objective truth from more subjective interpretation, the subjectivity of the scientist being part of the "error" that the method takes care of, so to speak.
And, because the notion of objectivity sans human subjectivity is so held up on a pedestal in our society, sometimes we fall into the trap of trying to be “scientists” with God. Sometimes we only allow Him, Who is not confined to a “field” of study, to exist within our own parameters of our understanding of our world, our lives.
Sometimes, we treat prayer like quiz time with God, giving Him a series of multiple choice answers and waiting for Him to answer within these confines. Even further, sometimes we may even challenge Him to reveal Himself to us in the way WE want Him to be revealed. (“If you are a good God, then [do this] for me.”) But most of the time, we are not that bold; we typically don’t even know that we have been testing Him until, to our minds, He “fails,” and we fall into a stupor of having to go back to the drawing board, coming up with another theory of "Who God Is."
However, a similarity between a being good scientist and a “good” Christian is a healthy understanding of mystery in your object of study and the limits of your own human mind. A good scientist would die happy knowing that he or she contributed to a small amount of well-studied understanding, hard-fought evidence, to a giant mystery, just as a saint dies happy knowing they lived in and communicated their small, non-repeatable vantage point into the vast Heart of God. But this is where the roles of scientist and Christian greatly diverge, again, and where the idea of simultaneous servanthood and stewardship within the Christian life is important to emphasize.
In the Christian life, the only way we can rightly seek to understand the mysteries of God well is if we are also, first and fore mostly, servants, obedient to Him.
...for it is He Who animates us to seek Him in the first place! We must begin from the place of gratitude, humility, servitude, if we are to embark on penetrating further and further into the Heart of God, the mystery of living a life of deeper and deeper holiness and submission to His Will. The scientist fully relies on the tools of his or her mind, while the Christian, the truth-seeker, relies on the initial action of He whom he or she seeks. (I think this must be why scientists swear all the time… there’s lots of frustration involved with the discipline.)
From my experience, I have felt most alive in my faith when I am fervently asking the Lord to use my mind, the gift of both our human rationality and human subjectivity, for the works He wants to do through me. This is the greater mystery of love, here: that an all-powerful God would even care enough to endow tiny creatures with His attributes and His work, and live in His Life! And if we don’t believe in love as the first impetus for humankind, we lose the cornerstone of our existence, we lose the collective and individual alpha and omega of human life.
My friends, let us deepen our servanthood to our good King and lover of our hearts, and may we, like Mary, treasure and ponder all of these mysteries in our hearts.
May we, like the wise virgins, tend our lamps in the darkness, as we wait for the return of our triumphant King.