As I write this, Malaysia Airlines flight MH 370 is still missing. There are more questions than answers about what happened to the airplane and the 239 people on board en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Two days have gone by and there are no conclusive explanations about the missing flight. Every moment must seem like eternity for the families and loved ones of those who were on board. Experts say it may take months or even years to determine the fate of the flight. This kind of not-knowing can be agonizing for those involved.
The truth is, we don’t do very well with unanswered questions. We don’t like inconclusive speculation. We pretty much hate to wait for the facts. We like the answers and we like them sooner rather than later. Even if it is bad news, we would rather have the facts than languish in the unknown. The adage, “No news is good news” is no longer accepted to the degree that it once was. It seems the more we know, the less we like the unknown.
We see this trend in religion. Through the ages, religion, in its many expressions, has embraced a fairly high degree of mystery. There have been many unknowns associated with religion. God was largely defined as mystery. When inexplicable things happened, they could be attributed to the mystery of God. As the human community has advanced in terms of science, technology, and understanding of the world around us, humanity has come to expect more conclusive answers. And this desire has spilled over into religion. People want religion to have conclusive answers as well. We see this in the rise in fundamentalist expressions of all religions. It is very clear in the conservative/fundamentalist expression of Christianity in America. There are churches that will gladly give you most of the answers to life’s questions, whether you ask them or not! While people seem to want answers from their religion, many scientists find that the more we find out, the more questions there are. So the mysteries keep unfolding and compounding. It may be easier to find a scientist who will say, “I don’t know,” than a church goer willing to say, “I don’t know.” In centuries past, people of faith readily admitted, “I don’t know,” and were accustomed to attributing the unknown to the realm of God.
These days of Lenten exploration are an opportunity to ask ourselves how we feel about mystery. What degree of mystery can we accept with our faith? Can we feel comfortable saying, “I don’t know”? To feel comfortable with mystery involves a high degree of trust in our faith and in God however we may define God. To embrace mystery involves giving up control. We may discover how controlling we are by considering how willing we are to accept mystery.
Jesus and other religious figures of stature embody the ability to accept a high degree of mystery. When we know that Love is the center, the reason, the reality of existence, then our fear of mystery melts away. May we increase our ability to accept mystery this Lenten season.
Prayer: The season of Lent invites us to ask many questions that may never be answered in this life. May we learn to trust God, the author of Creation, the source of Love, so that we can live with an ever greater degree of mystery in our lives. We seek to be grounded in God so that we may be truly free to live with mystery and ambiguity. We share our compassion and concern for the families and loved ones of those on the missing airliner. May they know the embrace of Divine Love. Amen.