PARADOXICAL

The faith chronicles

Thursday, August 03, 2006

 

A paradoxical faith

(This may not be the proper place to quote Oscar Wilde, but the scandalous French writer has mentioned something worth quoting about paradoxes and life: "…[T]he way to paradoxes is the way of truth. To test Reality we must see it on the tight-rope. When the Verities become acrobats we can judge them." -from The Picture of Dorian Gray)

A Paradoxical Faith

Six years in a Christian community and what have I gotten into?

Well, no less than novel experiences that brought me back to an ancient path. Various new relationships that awakened me to the ones I've already got and have taken for granted. Probing questions that can only find answers in an otherwise bigger question mark called faith.

This pattern of paradoxes kept on repeating and repeating along my journey until it has brought me into this deafening conclusion: What I had was a beautiful experience of the mystery called life, in a faith replete with paradoxes.

Now this is not to reduce my journey into Christianity to mere aesthetics of language. It is definitely not something to sneeze at when it appears that God has been communicating His divinity for six years in the poetry of paradoxes. The language of God must consist in paradoxes!

"We lose what we strive to keep and gain what we freely give away."

"Love your enemies."

"Die to yourself."

"Jesus is risen from the dead."

"Jesus is son of God and son of man."

"No one enters the kingdom unless one becomes like a child."

"There is only One God in Three Persons."

"It is when we are weak that God is strong." (When problems are so big and your strength is no longer enough to carry them, don't give up. Where your strength ends, the grace of God begins.)

"Whoever loves his own life will lose it, whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

"Zeal is strength under control."

"Believe in God in order to understand God; to believe is to see."

"God's wisdom is foolishness to the world."

"Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more."

"Jesus' death on the cross is a symbol of conquest, not defeat."

"To set man free from fear, it is necessary that he cultivate in his heart that true fear of God, the beginning of all wisdom." (a paraphrasing of Pope John Paul II's words)

"Joy is perfected in suffering."

"Blessed are the poor for the kingdom of heaven is theirs."

"The poor are here in our midst so that the rest may become rich in faith."

"One can give without loving, but one cannot love without giving."

"The more you give, the more you receive." (St. Francis of Assisi)

"We are saved not by good works but by faith alone. But we cannot be saved without doing good works." (Fr. Reinero Cantalamessa)(The mere giving of material comfort or financial help to someone in need does not necessarily mean an expression of love and concern. But you cannot say you love and you care for someone and just watch him suffer. To give doesn’t necessarily mean to love, but to love always mean to give.)

"True freedom means 'freedom to do what we ought', freedom to obey God." (Pope John
Paul II)

"You'll know the love of God through difficulties, through suffering… God's love is bittersweet… This is the paradox of the Cross." (St. Ignatius)

Take a second look at the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi and note an unprecedented eloquence in expressing the Christian enigma:

"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, where there is hatred, let me sow your love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.

"O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life."

Fr. Ruben J. Villote, who runs the Center for Migrant Youth - in a way a modern-day disciple of St. Francis - wrote in The Word, his column in Philippine Daily Inquirer:

"I was mentored into believing that 'winning by losing,' 'receiving much by giving much,' 'going up by going down,' 'being great by being little,' 'being wise by being a clown,' 'being a victor by being a victim,' 'being rich by being poor,' 'being empowered by being powerless,' 'being known by being hidden,' and being forgiven by being forgiving' are the paradigms that every follower of Jesus, especially the priest, is being dared to shift.

"The worldly smart may cynically call it the 'Mother Teresa Syndrome.' Those who dare to live it out in public may be called irrelevant, unproductive, foolish and queer in this time and age, but that precisely is the goal and mission of the true follower of Christ - to be a 'sign of contradiction' in the world, 'to make a difference' in this time and age!"

The Pope himself, in Crossing the Threshold of Hope, summarized the Christian faith as follows: "To find life, one must lose life; to be born, one must die; to save oneself, one must take up the cross."

With the old mindset I had, my coming into a Christian community should be viewed as a mistake. But like an Easter Vigil song goes, I hereby exclaim "O felix culpa" ("Oh what a happy fault").

Meanwhile the beautiful, if at times perplexing, journey continues...

9.2000


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