Some years ago I was hiking in the mountains with some friends. Our plan was to stay over night in a small hut, and then wake early the next day to climb a large mountain close by. We woke the next morning and while the others were finishing things inside, I steeped out of the hut to have a look around. There was a steady rain falling, which was not ideal for hiking, but nothing serious enough to destroy our plans. But as I stood there in the rain, I looked up to see that there not a cloud in the sky. The sky as far as I could see in this valley was bright blue.

Now this was a great cause for confusion. As far as I understood, you needed to have clouds to produce rain: there were no clouds, but there was a lot of rain. I called out to the others saying, “there is something a little strange our here that you might want to have a look at”. A few of them came out to see what the problem was. I proceeded to point out that either the clouds had turned blue or nature had forgotten to follow its own laws.

I was expecting my friends to show the same level of amazement that I was experiencing, yet they only came out with two different comments: “Maybe that is normal and we have just never seen it”, and “yeah, so what…who cares, it’s just rain”. Their reaction bugged me more than the original problem. To not have a sense of awe and wonder when presented with a mystery is surely more disturbing that having rain without clouds.

The whole point of a mystery is that it does not make sense. Or at least, it fails to make sense from our present view-point. It invites us to enter into a journey. It almost taunts us, trying to capture our curiosity until we are prepared to go in search of the answer.

Despite my best attempt to get the others interested in this mystery of meteorology, we began our climb up this mountains. We left behind the beauty of the valley and entered into the thick cover of the forest, catching only fleeting glimpses of the world below as we climbed toward the summit.

After many hours we finally scrambled over the final rocky outcrop to reach the peak, only to be greeted by a wind so strong that we almost had to lie down for fear of being blown off to top. And there we discovered the answer. After a long and painful journey, climbing without knowing what lay ahead, we finally reached the point where everything made sense.

From the top of this mountain, we had a commanding view of the whole horizon. Our journey had begun on the eastern side of the mountain where everything was peaceful except for the disturbing contradiction in weather. On the western side, a huge storm was raging with winds blowing at close to 80km/h. The mountain range was so high that the storm had been blocked from moving forward. Yet the rain was being carried by the wind over the top of the range and down to the opposite side of the mountain. From this new view-point, we could see our little hut still bathed in beautiful sunshine, yet also being covered in rain from a storm on the other side of the range.

One of the greatest gifts of the Holy Spirit is the gift of Awe and Wonder. In previous generations, this gift was referred to as ‘the fear of God’. This was not trying to suggest that God is someone to be scared of, but rather that we stand before a mystery that is so freakishly huge that it has to stir up some sort of response within us. Possibly the greatest tragedy is that so many Christians believe that they understand God. Or when they realise that they can’t understand God, they give up and never bother trying.

The whole point of Christianity is that it doesn’t make sense. If it did make sense to us, that would mean that it would fit perfectly into what we already know. And if we already understood it, there would be no point in thinking about it. This is part of the reason why many Christians don’t really care about their faith. Christianity has been presented to them as nothing more that a good moral code, not much different to what you already know within yourself to be true. If that is the limit to what this is about, then they are correct in thinking that there is no need to go any further.

When you break open the actual story of Christ, the one thing that becomes very clear is that it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Sadly, we have become so used to the stories that we generally miss the point of what is actually happening. Sometimes it is necessary to pull our faith apart and look at every individual piece so that we can realise that none of these pieces actually fit if we try to put them back together.

Far from being a cause for doubting our faith, this is actually the whole point of Christianity. The contradictions are meant to annoy us, taunting us until we embark on a journey of discovery. As with our adventure on the mountain, a mystery will always call us to climb through the blindness of the forest until we eventually break out into the clear view of the mountain top.

By Fr David Callaghan MGL