Two Paradoxes: Life Lost & Last Place
GK Chesterton (1874-1936), a masterful writer and deep Catholic thinker – definitely worth anyone's time reading – described paradox in this way: “truth standing on its head to gain attention.” He perceived paradox permeating the universe as a sign of God's creative fingerprint on the world. He wrote, “It is this silent swerving from accuracy by an inch that is the uncanny element in everything. It seems a sort of secret treason in the universe. An apple or an orange is round enough to get itself called round, and yet is not round after all,” (from Orthodoxy ). Paradoxes are the types of truths, which at first seem incredulous, but on deeper inspection, prove themselves to be intractably true, and therefore impossible to ignore.
Paradoxes are readily found in the Gospels, both last week and this week they flummox, challenge and unsettle us. Last week Jesus taught, “Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it,” (Mk 8:35.) In another place Jesus teaches, that the grain must die in order to germinate and ultimately bear more fruit. Otherwise, the purpose of the seed is not accomplished, a frustrated raison d'être.
How do we bring this teaching to life? A life that is guarded or encapsulated is a life lost, frustrated, purposeless. In contrast, Jesus encourages us to lose our lives: true love lays down one's life for one's friends. The Christian lives with open arms, with a generous heart, looking for opportunities to give of oneself, to share what is most precious.
Last week, I was so happy (tickled really) to see that our collections totaled $10,794.17. This week, you were also very generous: $9,651.21. Thank you for your generosity! Supporting our parish needs is a sacrifice. I am very grateful to everyone who has prayerfully given over precious resources for the good of the parish. Thank you!!
This week Jesus teaches, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all,” (Mk 9:35). And then setting a child in the midst of the crowd, he admonishes “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me...” In another place (Mt 25), Jesus warns that service to the little ones will be the standard of judgment, “Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me,” and so go off to eternal fire. Receiving the child places the host at the service of one who would normally be beneath him. In first century Palestine, the child is the little one, the voiceless and invisible one. Serving the little one upends the normal order.
For me, this is a good reminder that a leader must be a servant, willing to roll up his or her sleeves and get dirty. I remember my youth minister teaching me, as she helped clean, never to ask another person to do something you would not yourself do. Sage advice.
In the coming weeks, let’s try and put into practice the paradoxical truth of these two sayings of Jesus. Meanwhile, be on the lookout for “truth standing on its head to gain attention.”
Yours in Christ Jesus,