As I write this, I’m laying on our love-seat, feet up, head propped on a pillow, belly full of milk and my wife’s peanut-butter cookies, Blues playoff hockey on the television, favorite pair of jeans unbuttoned and plain white t-shirt soft on my big ol’ belly.
I couldn’t be more comfortable.
I think Jesus is mad.
If there’s one thing that I think Christ hates, it’ss people being comfortable. When people are comfortable, they get complacent, and when they get complacent, they forget the reality of their situation: we’re thiiiiis close to Hell. Always.
The more I read the Gospels and the more I read and listen to people holier than myself, the more I become aware of the prevalence and importance of paradox in Christianity.
G.K. Chesterton is the master of expressing the paradoxes of Christianity, which is a big part of why I love his writings and quote him so often. These paradoxes are a necessity, of course, because we try to speak of realities which language is not rich enough to express.
We need paradox. Christ is man and God. The Father is just and merciful. The Spirit is within us and around us. The rich are poor. The first are last. The humble are exalted.
There’s just no way to describe the mysteries of God; when we try, we end up with silly words like “consubstantial”, simply because it’s the best we can do. What word could otherwise describe the Trinity, whose infinity our finite brains cannot stretch to contain? So we are stuck with paradox.
Jesus is not part man and part God; such would be a contradiction. One cannot both be and not be something at the same time. To be a man is to not be a God. To be a God is to not be a man. That’s why Christ’s response to His critics was simple:
That is paradox. An absurdity on the surface that, in the end, simply must be true. The premises of the argument don’t seem to lead to the conclusion, except for the fact that they must.
This is why I have found that I cannot know Jesus without prayer. I can wonder at Him in the Eucharist. I can tremble before Him in the confessional. But I don’t know Him, not really, unless I spend time intimately with Him every day.
He gives me something different every day. When my pride starts welling up within me, suddenly that day’s Gospel is about humility and meekness. When I get down on myself and start to give in to self-loathing, it seems to always work out that the readings those days are about the Father’s infinite love for me.
And part of me wants to cry out, “Which is it, God? Make up your mind! Should I be humble or proud, weak or strong, silent or loud?”
And every day, all he says is, “Yes.”
Yes I should be humble, because left to my own devices I fall into sin pretty quickly and pretty deeply. And, yes, I should be proud, because for some reason God saw fit to make me and allow me to be a temple of His Spirit. Yes, I should be weak and let the Father carry me where He wills, and yes, I should be strong, the upright man God deigned to be worthy of loving a woman and creating human life.
And yes, I should shut up about myself and all the trivial mess I waste words on, and yes, I should shout about Him and His love and His saving plan. Even on the internet, if need be.
The next several posts will be about prayer, because there’s simply nothing more important in this life. The sacraments are our lifeblood, and they keep us from death, but prayer is what makes this life worth living.
Intimacy. Relationship. Vulnerability. Joy. All that is to be found in practicing the presence of Christ through meditative prayer.
If we forget why we live the Christian life, if we get comfortable and think we are saved, if we lose our connection with the person of Jesus Christ, then suddenly our sins seem more attractive. Suddenly God’s plan seems like folly. Suddenly Hell, that awful necessity of God’s loving gift of free will, settles slowly in our souls.
All of the fruits of God’s love are waiting for us. In the chapel, in the yard, in our living rooms…wherever we can spend real, focused time with Jesus. And so also waits Satan and our selfishness: if we don’t build that relationship with Christ, if we decide our own time and our own talks and our own wills are more important than God’s, the alternative is always available. I hear it whisper to me, even now.
This life is a risk. It is the great cosmic risk of the Divine. It is God allowing us to choose Him or ourselves, Heaven or Hell. And if we get too comfortable, if we don’t continually and daily remind ourselves of all the facets of Christ’s person, all the various angles of paradox that make up His shape, we risk losing Him forever. We risk missing out on all that we ever wanted, all that we dreamed of as a child, all that our hearts ache for in the dark watches of the night.
Is that a risk worth taking?