“No other religion has a god who created and also entered into time and space, entered into that creation. No other religion has a god that enters into the mess.”
I like to try to pretend I’m not an adult, but it’s getting harder and harder to deny that I’m growing up. And with all the perks of being adult, there are plenty of disadvantages. One of them is the awareness of what a mess life can be. I’m aware that not every child can grow up protected from tragedies, and it’s a great grace that for the most part, I was. But as I grow older, I come face to face with them daily.
The sudden death of a friend’s spouse. Loved ones and coworkers fighting cancer. Miscarriages. Fights. Infidelity. Divorce. The effects of sin, waiting at our doorstep and creeping into our daily lives. Life is messy. Is it messier than ever before, or is it just that now I know how messy it is?
What is the answer to the mess of life?
We need the Lord to enter in. We need him to enter into the mess.
The feast earlier this week, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, reminds us that this is exactly what the Lord does. He enters into the mess. In the Incarnation, God chose to enter into his creation. He created us out of love, and when we abandoned him, he chose to enter into his creation out of love.
This is the great mystery of Christianity. No other religion has a god who created and also entered into time and space, entered into that creation. No other religion has a god that enters into the mess.
It is not that God will necessarily take us out of the mess. We also heard in the readings this week part of the prayer of Azariah (also known as Abednego), one of the three men thrown into the fiery furnace by Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3). The three men praise the Lord even in the fire. And what happens? The Lord doesn’t pluck them out of the fire. He walks with them in it.
Likewise, the Word becomes flesh to walk with us in the fire. He becomes man so that he can suffer. He takes on a body so that he can give it up again. The author of the letter the Hebrews tells us that this is what is on the lips of the Word at the Incarnation: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight in. Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll, Behold, I come to do your will, O God’” (Hebrews 10:5-7).
He accepts a body to do the Father’s Will. He walks into this mess and accepts the Cross. Our redemption is not a poof from heaven, accomplished with a wave of God’s hand to say, “I’ll make it all better!” God actually does quite the opposite. He’s not that clockmaker god who stands aloof or even a docetist Jesus who just appears human; the Word of God does not save us from afar. Rather he says, “I will make it all better by taking it on. I will make it better by becoming one of them. I will make it all better by entering into the mess.”
At times of struggle, temptation, sin, or suffering that we can’t explain, we have to remind ourselves that the Lord wants to enter into the mess. He might not take away the mess, but he will be there with us. And that’s what gets us through it. Not in a nice Pollyanna way, thinking that once we let him in, it will all disappear or it will stop hurting. But rather that he will be there with us, he will sanctify the moment and the suffering, and he will give the suffering a power that it would never have otherwise.
We only have to allow him in. Rather than distancing ourselves from him in times of great suffering, we ask him to come into it with us. Lord, enter into the mess.
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