Now, how should I put this? I knew that Christ's teachings are full of paradoxes. I do take them seriously, but have never really sat down and reflected on them. Until that one fine evening last year when the hymn "Lord, We Touch You Today" was sung during the Mass, the chorus stirred my peaceful spirit.
Here's how the chorus goes:
To live is to die, and to laugh is to cry
To live is to love with all our heart
To live is to walk and to talk in your love
And to live, is to sing in your love
(The hymn ends at 2:16. This is the best video I can find on YouTube.)
I've been singing this hymn for at least a thousand times throughout the years and yet, I only realised it that very day that I did not really understand the words of the chorus! Oh dear. What have I been doing all these years?
One of the youth leaders I know used to put it very bluntly that while the world tells us that we should live our lives to the fullest of our ability, Christ tells us that we must die everyday. The world sounds more promising and "life-giving" instead, eh?
It was Jesus who said it, "For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it" (Mt 16:25). Putting it in layman's language - if I strive to live and make myself happy and comfortable, I would lose it despite the effort put in; but if I generously give my life away for Christ's sake, I will gain life instead. Isn't that quite confusing and mind-boggling? (Ouch, my brain's hurting!)
What Jesus really meant is that, it is through dying to our self that we may receive life eternal. Therefore, "to live is to die."
Perhaps, if we just think about these paradoxes given by Jesus, they somehow do make some sense.
Without sorrow (to cry), do we know what joy (to laugh) really is?
Without love, is it still worthwhile to live?
Without death on the Cross, would there be Resurrection?
Without lowering ourselves, how can we expect to be lifted up?
Without taking up our own crosses, can we still follow Christ who has never promised us an easy life as a follower of His?
Without the heart of a servant, can a leader identify himself with his/her subordinates and thus lead them effectively?
Without giving away what we have, how can we receive anything when both our hands and hearts are full?
So the list goes on and on...
What a mystery, but our faith is built exactly on these paradoxes of Christ. Lighting Rod said it well, that "Christian paradoxes reveal deeper wisdom. Self sacrifice helps us to better appreciate the gift we have been given, and suffering gives us the opportunity to strengthen our wills and to become more Christlike."
Perhaps - just perhaps - God purposely leaves these mysteries with us to keep us wondering and searching, so that on the day we finally see Him face to face and when these mysteries are unravelled, we would experience that everlasting joy and glory He has promised, which is now far beyond the human minds and hearts can grasp.
"The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness." ~ Pope Benedict XVI