Practical Mystics
Thoughts on the Second Readings by J. Frankenfield
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Ephesians 1:3-14

“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus; I’m tired of hearing about Jesus,” a young man told me once. “Parents, teachers, priests and sisters spent endless hours convincing me that I should know about, believe in, honor, rely on, love, obey and worship Jesus. But the entire relationship with was an obligation like the one I had with this strange uncle that my parents expected me to respect and love even though I seldom saw him. It was artificial and manipulated.”

We all assume that we know our faith: not just the doctrines and practices but the basic stuff: what our lives and the world and God are about. We’re busy living not obsessing about what living is. We try to cooperate with God; we don’t spend hours pondering who God really is. We run on spiritual inertia because it seems easier, more practical. We don’t need the anxiety of raising basic questions. We focus on what we’ve decided are the tasks at hand, the ones we’re used to, the ones our community agrees with.

Still, Karl Rahner, the Catholic theologian, wrote that if we’re to discover the meaning of life and God, the foundation of life, we have to begin by looking deeply into ourselves and our world. He went so far as to say that in the future Christians would become mystics or they would cease to be Christians.

Mystics continually search themselves and the world around them for reality without assuming that they’ll completely understand either. We must become practical mystics. We can’t afford to sit in a cave and ponder but neither can we afford to rush from project to project simply doing. Human progress has placed too much power in our hands and made the pace of change too fast for either option to be acceptable. We’ve got to ponder and do at the same time. To fail at either is to place ourselves and those whose lives we touch in jeopardy. We become bulls in life’s china shop.

On her death bed a wise woman said to me, “I think a lot of what I was taught about God was useless. It made my faith childish, not child-like. I wish I had thought for myself more. It would’ve made faith more helpful. I guess I’ll learn soon enough.”

The time is coming when we and our children will all be mystics – or nothing.