Mysteries. Life has many mysteries.

Readings: Acts 1.1-11; Ps. 47; Eph. 1.17-23; and Lk. 24.46-53

Mysteries. Life has many mysteries.

  1. During this past month, our parish buried two baby girls; one was one-day old, and the other was six months old. Why? Why does God let this happen?
  2. Another mystery. Every time you hold an infant, arenít you filled with wonder? We see that the child has mommyís mouth, daddyís ears, and we wonder, "What will this child be?"
  3. Vocations: why is someone called to marry, and to marry this particular person? Why does someone else who is wonderful decides not to marry, or canít find Mr. or Mrs. Right to marry? And most priests would love to marry, but they say "No" to marriage in order to serve God and Godís people. Why? What mystery motivates peopleís choices, peopleís actions?
  4. Relationships are among lifeís most mysterious activities. A & B might be best friends. B & C might be best friends. But A & C canít stand each other. Why? What attracts us and holds us to certain people?

Many people say, "When I get to heaven, I have a lot of questions to ask God." We like black and white answers. We like clear answers, even to complex questions. We like numbers because they add up. But matters of the soul oftentimes donít add up; they are mysterious.

Mysteries oftentimes frustrate us. May I suggest that mysteries might tease us to ponder more, to speculate more, to try to learn more. Mysteries lure us to come in closer, to listen more intently, to watch more perceptively. Mysteries hint that there is more to know than what we know currently.

Examples of natural mysteries.

Last night, I was visiting with some friends, sitting on their back-porch, and watching a series of humming birds fly in for a quick drink. Watching those tiny birds constantly flutter their wings, at breakneck speed, exhausted me. I felt like shouting to the birds, "Just perch. Just relax." I became tired just watching them work so hard.

Living at Niagara Falls for 18 years was marvelous. Countless times, I took visiting family and friends on the Maid of the Mist boat which churns to the base of the falls. Passengers look up 175 feet (a 17 story building) and look across for 3600 (12 football fields). The experience is breath-taking. We can know the facts of the place of origin of the falls, how much water flows per second, but the impact of the experience leaves us speechless. This wonder of the natural world has a mysterious impact on us.

Beyond natural mysteries, however, are supernatural mysteries. Today is the feast of the Ascension. The first and last readings today describe the event. "As the disciples were looking on, Jesus was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight." And the gospel says, "Then Jesus raised his hands and blessed them. He parted from them, and was taken up into heaven."

This mystery needs to be pondered, not in isolation, but in relation to other mysteries: that Mary was preserved from sin in order to be the mother of God, that Mary remained a virgin before, during, and after giving birth to Jesus; that in Jesus, God became Man; that Jesusí passion and death redeemed all humankind for their sins; that since he was resurrected from the dead, that we too can be raised from the dead; that in Jesusí resurrected state, he walked, talked, and ate for another forty days before he ascended into heaven. We too hope to go to heaven. And in returning to the Father, Jesus sent his Spirit, Jesusí Spirit, to remain with the Church always, until the end of time." Why did Jesus do these things?

We were created in, through, and for Jesus. We were created in the image and likeness of God. Our souls yearn for God. Our human hearts pulsate for God. We have come from God to know, love, and serve God and neighbor in this life; and to be happy with him in the next life. While we live on earth, each of us experiences a gap in our lives. No matter how much we love other people, and other people may love us, we are still missing something, someone. We may try to fill that gap with a myriad of substitutions, but nothing can substitute for God. Only God can satisfy us absolutely. We are Godís children, and as St. Augustine says, "Our hearts are restless, until they rest in you, O God." God is the ultimate mystery and end in our lives.

Now, one last story. When I was living in Niagara Falls, a woman was referred to me to take religious instructions because she wished to convert to Catholicism. She had worked as a cleaning lady at the university, and one of the professors had been especially respectful and kind towards her. She wished to become a Catholic like him. In my discussions with her, this woman who was in her mid-70ís told me that although she had grown up in Niagara Falls, she had never seen the great Niagara Falls. She had moved a few times in her life, always within Niagara Falls, and never more than a few miles from this 8th wonder of the world, but she had never placed herself in front of the great Falls.

Friends, we sit in front of the Great God who is Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. May we ponder the mystery of God, the mysterious purpose that God has for each of us, the mystery of heaven which awaits us. May we do all we can to contribute to the development of the kingdom of God on earth, as we prepare to enjoy the mystery and majesty of the kingdom of God in heaven. Donít be like the elderly woman in Niagara Falls, who never placed herself in front of the mystery of the Falls. Instead, be drawn to, be patient with, be prayerful in front of the mystery of God, and with the image of God within you.

Read other homilies by Father O'Malley