The Paradox of Life in Christ
2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16A
Romans 6:3-4, 8-11
A few weeks ago, my family and I were involved in a rollover accident coming home from the grocery store. Thankfully we all walked away, but internally it was the kind of life event that shakes you to the core. Something that hit me the hardest afterward was the terrifying feeling I had while rolling over. Not just the dreamy feeling where everything seems to go in slow motion, but the feeling that I was not ready for this to happen. I wasn’t ready to die. That shook me. Where is my faith? Who have I been living for up until now? What does God want me to change so when that time comes I am ready to embrace his will?
In this Sunday’s readings, we encounter a reality meant to be a similar wake-up call. In the paradox of the cross, we experience the tension of losing everything in order to gain all. In order to live we must die. It’s a reality we seldom think about at length because it’s uncomfortable. Self-denial is a prerequisite for holiness. This is something I thought I was living, but as the van rolled I quickly realized how little I really was.
In our day and age, we are accustomed to lean towards comfort. We often choose first that which hurts the least. Even at Mass and work, we can often find ourselves vying for those things that bring less resistance to change, like an extra splash of creamer in a coffee or grabbing the best seat at the board meeting. For me, it comes at the end of the day when the battle of prayer takes hold and I get to choose between time with our Lord or time with Netflix. The small things really are the hidden deaths we choose in order to rise with Christ.
But our good and loving God is showing us another way. He beckons us to the light by a path that doesn’t make sense to our human experience. As St. Paul says in the second reading, the way of life comes through being buried with him. We have to choose which comfort will have first place in our hearts: Jesus or the world. Following Christ means welcoming the hard parts in order to see the glory on the other side. This requires constant conversion and a commitment to always be ready to meet him. And so we have the hard question before us: what does God want me to do?
In the Gospel this Sunday, it’s made clear that there are a variety of ways God calls us to follow him. There are prophets who will receive God’s blessings, yet even those who welcome the prophet still receive his reward. How incredible is that? Here is proof of a boundless God of love who understands our condition so acutely that he pours out grace on each of us, whatever our capabilities. If God is not asking me to be a prophet, I can count on the fact he is still calling me to serve in another way, even if more hidden.
St. Thérèse never stepped foot in mission territory her entire life, yet she is honored as patroness of missionaries by the Church. She perfected loving in the little things, dying to self to live for others. That’s the call of the missionary. She lived it so perfectly that, even as a hidden Carmelite, she still received the missionary’s crown.
That’s our challenge today, to live each and every moment radically proclaiming the Gospel with our words and actions, whether in big or small ways. In our time, we are called to be saints by living the Gospel of the cross.
So let us cling to Jesus. Let us choose love over comfort in all the big things, but most especially in every single little, tiny thing. True joy and light can only be found in embracing the cross. Let us be ready to joyfully bring Jesus to every corner of the world, into every heart, no matter the cost.
Lord Jesus, you died upon a cross
to build a bridge between heaven and earth.
You rose from the dead so that I might rise again
to live eternally in your heavenly kingdom.
Grant me the grace and wisdom
to follow you ever more closely
as I carry my cross daily.
May my acts of love and charity
reflect the compassion you have for all humanity
and lead others to intentionally follow you
in this life and in the next.
—Tracy Earl Welliver.