August 5: The Paradox of the Cross

A paradox is a seemingly self-contradictory statement or proposition that, when investigated or explained, may prove to be well founded or true. Jesus often speaks in the language of paradox.

One of the most striking of Jesus’ paradoxes occurs in Matthew 16, 24-28, when He says, “Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.” Another way of expressing that is to say, “if we seek ourselves only, we will lose ourselves, whereas if we reach beyond ourselves towards God and toward His Son Jesus we will find our true selves.”

If we look to ourselves alone and our own needs and preferences, we risk losing ourselves, whereas if we look toward the Lord, which will always mean looking toward others, we will find life in this world and eternal life in the next.

Jesus expressed this fundamental paradox of His teaching in another way when He said, “Give and it will be given to you.” In other words, it is in giving that we receive. Doesn’t our own experience of life teaches us the well-founded truth contained in this paradox? Isn’t it true that when we look beyond ourselves to others, to the Lord present in others, that we experience the Lord’s own joy and the Lord’s own life, both of which are a foretaste of the joy and the life of the Kingdom?

Let us pray. “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end, nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” Thomas Merton

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