The paradoxes of Christian life
By Fr. Roy Cimagala
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” (Mt 16,24-26)
With these words of Christ, we should be warned that Christian life will always involve some paradoxes. He told us about this unavoidable condition in our life here on earth.
We are told, for example, to lose in order to win, to die in order to live, to give in order to receive, to be empty so we can be filled. We are told to be detached from persons and things of this world to be attached only to who would truly matter to us, and that is God. Christ even made use of the word, “hate,” so we can follow him, so we can be his disciples. Still more, he told us to be as simple as doves yet as astute as serpents.
To be sure, if we would only use our own faculties or our own understanding of things, there is no way but really to be at a loss as to what to make out of all these contrasting qualities.
But precisely, we have to know the true character of a paradox to realize that these contrasting qualities are meant to highlight a higher truth. That’s what a paradox does. It takes cognizance of the many different and competing values of our many different and competing parts and aspects of our life to attain a certain unity of life and to gain our one ultimate goal.
Thus, we should not be surprised that we have to deal with these paradoxes. We should just learn how to do it properly. And again, the secret is already given to us. It is to be with Christ, to be like him, to be “another Christ,” if not “Christ himself.”
To be with Christ is when we would not only know but also live the art of losing in order to win. This art is truly helpful given our wounded and sinful condition which is prone to undue attachments to earthly thing and other anomalies.
Divine logic many times baffles us because God’s ways are different from our ways. St. Paul articulates this predicament when he said, “O, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and untraceable his ways. Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” (Rom 11,33-34)
To be able to live by this divine logic, we of course would need first of all the grace of God. We have to ask for it with humility. And then we need to do our part, exerting the due effort to acquire the appropriate attitude and corresponding virtues.
We should have the attitude of willingly giving up everything else just to be with God. “Vale la pena,” it is all worthwhile, should somehow be like a slogan for us. In the gospel, the same spirit is expressed when Christ said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking pearls, who when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Mt 13,45-46)
We should be willing to let go of everything if only to get to God who is everything to us!