If someone asked you to give a one-sentence summary of your faith, what would you say? That Jesus Christ died for your sins and rose again? That you believe everything that is held and taught by the Catholic Church? Or would you simply say, “God is love” and leave it at that?
It’s not easy to distill all the truths of the gospel into one short sentence, is it? Even St. Paul, who wrote so many beautiful letters to people in the early Church, had a hard time doing it. In every letter, it seems, he had a different summary statement. Some even had two or three!
This month, we want to focus on one of these statements from Paul, because it is both very moving and very inspiring. Writing to the believers in Colossae, he spoke of the gospel message as a “mystery” that God had commissioned him to announce. It’s a mystery that had been “hidden from ages and from generations past” but that now has been made known. And what is that mystery? Christ in you, the hope for glory (Colossians 1:27).
This mystery, this grand revelation from God, gets right to the heart of our faith. It may be a very short phrase, but it is filled with depths of meaning. Entire books have been written about it. Countless homilies have been preached on it. Theologians have produced long treatises on it. But no matter how deep it may seem, the truths conveyed by this saying are also very simple:
• First is the message that Christ, who was crucified and who rose, is at the heart of the mystery of our faith.
• Second, this Christ who is at the heart of the mystery lives in our hearts.
• Third, this same Christ is also our hope of eternal glory in heaven.
As we take a look at these three truths, we want to ask how we can experience the grace and blessings that they describe. We don’t want to offer deep theological insights as much as we want to talk about how our hearts can be changed as we put our faith in this mystery. So let’s begin.
Christ Is the Center. For Paul, the most important word in this mystery is Christ. Jesus is at the heart of our faith. He holds our faith together. Everything in creation is focused on him, and all of history is fulfilled in him. Just before he spoke of the mystery of Christ in us, the hope of glory, Paul used a hymn to show how central Jesus is to everything we believe. According to this hymn, Jesus is the “image of the invisible God,” and the “firstborn of all creation.” Everything was created “through him and for him.” In fact, “All things hold together” in him (Colossians 1:15, 16, 17).
Paul described Christ this way to make it clear that the One who died and rose for us is the same One for whom everything exists. He taught that Jesus has the power not only to reconcile us to God but also to bring us to heaven, to fill us with the “hope for glory” (Colossians 1:27). At the heart of all Jesus’ teachings, miracles, and healings is his desire to bring us back to God and fill us with his divine life and love. So when Jesus promises that he will be with us always, we can trust that he will be true to his word (Matthew 28:20).
A Magnificent Mystery. Try to imagine what this mystery means. Jesus, the eternal Son of God, came to earth and became a man like us in all things but sin. As St. John put it, the eternal Word of God “became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). It’s very humbling to know that Jesus assumed the limitations of a human body—just for us. It’s humbling to know that he joyfully endured all the misunderstanding, enmity, and hatred of his opponents—just for us. It’s humbling to know that he embraced the cross—just for us.
The mystery of Christ is that God chose to let his Son become one with the people that he set out to save. He didn’t have to do it this way, but he chose to save us in the most personal way possible. And so, the eternal Son of God became fully man, even as he remained fully God. He was born not in glory but in poverty. The second Person of the Holy Trinity, the “Ancient One,” came into our world as a helpless infant dependent on the care of two human beings (Daniel 7:9). He who is the center of all creation became a “man of suffering . . .one of those from whom men hide their faces” (Isaiah 53:3).
Spend a few minutes contemplating this magnificent yet humble plan of God. Think about the love and commitment that moved Jesus to take on human flesh. Let the magnificence of this mystery pierce your heart so that you can echo Mary’s words of wonder and awe when she first learned of it: “How can this be?” (Luke 1:34).
All for Love. Do you remember what the angels sang on that first Christmas Day? “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14). Because they were blessed with full knowledge at the moment of their creation, the angels were able to recognize how important this moment was. God’s plan was unfolding in new and dramatic ways.
Many blessings would come from Jesus’ incarnation—blessings of joy, salvation, mercy, hope, and redemption. Their eyes were opened, and they recognized who Jesus was without his having to perform a single miracle or preach a single sermon. They just knew he was the Son of God. They knew, also, how highly favored we are in God’s eyes.
None of us will come to this depth of knowledge while we live in this world. In many ways, the incarnation will remain a mystery of our faith. But still, we can all acknowledge that Jesus’ coming to us as a man was an act of deep love. We can all begin to grasp the kind of God we have—one who would give up the glory of heaven just to come and save us. Out of love for us, Jesus became “lower than the angels” (Hebrews 2:9). Out of love for us, he died on the cross. Out of love for us, he opened the gates of heaven when he rose from the dead. And out of love for us, he will come back at the end of time to bring us into our heavenly home.
He’s on Your Side. Even today, as he sits at the right hand of his Father, Jesus is still fully God and fully man. He remains bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh—for all of eternity. This means that almighty God has experienced everything we have experienced or will experience—all of our joys and all of our sufferings, all of our hopes and all of our disappointments, all of our successes and all of our failures.
Since he is still like us in every way, Jesus remains an ever-present door of hope for the church, a river of consolation for the discouraged and downcast, and a pathway to the Father for those who seek him. He is our great high priest, the one “mediator between God and the human race” (1 Timothy 2:5).
Do you know what this means? That Jesus is on our side. Every day of our lives, he wants to tell us, “I am with you. I am in your heart. I want to help you. I want to fill you with the hope of glory.”
Embrace the Mystery. The psalmist once asked, “What are humans that you are mindful of them, mere mortals that you care for them?” (Psalm 8:5). Why are we—so independent, so fickle, and so weak in the face of temptation—so highly favored in God’s eyes? Who among us can plumb the wisdom and counsels of our God? And yet he has made his own Son our Redeemer. Jesus Christ is the heart of the mystery of God’s plan. And he will never give up on us. He will always be “Christ in you, the hope for glory” (Colossians 1:27)!