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The True Worship
August 7, 2020
Increase Our Faith
August 8, 2020

Homily for Friday of the 18th Week in Ordinary Time, 07 August 2020, Mt 16:24-28

Our Gospel today is what they call a PARADOX. I checked the meaning in the dictionary and found this definition: “Paradox is a figure of speech in which a statement appears to contradict itself, but is actually communicating an inherent truth.” It means, if you see only the contradiction, you do not yet see the truth that it is trying to state.
Here’s the paradox from the Gospel today, “The one who saves his life will lose it…while the one who loses it will save it.” The statement seems to contradict itself because in normal language, you either save it or lose it. How can you lose it if you save it; or save it if you lose it? What is Jesus trying to tell us here?
Obviously, he is not using normal but figurative language. He is actually explaining to them what it means to be his disciple, but he is also talking about the mystery of human life itself. Let us use a more ordinary analogy to get what he means. For example, the purpose of BREAD. Bread is meant to be broken and eaten if it is to serve its purpose. If you keep it, you lose it. Why? It is not meant to be kept; it will just spoil and rot. If you lose it by consuming it, you have kept its purpose.
Another example, a CANDLE. The candle’s purpose is to give light. If it does not, it does not fulfill its purpose. But if it is to give light, it has to be burned until it burns out. By burning out, it is able to keep its purpose of giving light.
Jesus is saying basically the same thing about human life. It’s not just bread that gets stale, you know. People too. How can we achieve our life’s purpose if we live it only for ourselves? If we are unwilling to be broken and shared and consumed like bread? No wonder Jesus found bread most expressive of his own life’s mission and purpose: “This is my body which will be given up for you!”
People are like candles too. In my younger activist days, I received a poster with the following saying, “He who wishes to give light must endure burning.”
St. Paul says the same thing in Romans 14:7, “For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone.” Jesus gives his disciples a new and simplified commandment, the commandment TO LOVE, AS HE LOVES US. In John 15:13, he explains what that means, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
This reminds me of the Parable of the Salt Doll. The story goes, “Once there was a salt doll that wanted to know who she was. She went around asking, but no one could tell her. Until one day, she saw the ocean and asked the water, “Who am I?” The ocean water replied, “Come to me and you will know.” As the salt doll stepped into the water, she began to dissolve. And before the rest of her fell into the ocean, she cried out and said, “Now I know who I am!”
So many people live their whole lives not knowing who they are and what they live for. Some people get so obsessed about nothing but power and popularity, profit and gain and wake up one day realizing how empty their lives have been. Someone once asked a friend who went to Church very often to pray, “What do you gain from praying anyway? Aren’t you wasting your time?” The friend replied, “What do I gain? Honestly, NOTHING. But let me tell you what I’ve LOST since I learned to pray: I’ve lost my fears and insecurities, my arrogance and my selfishness.” Tell me, do you call that a loss? Jesus calls that a gain. And that is what PARADOX is about.
Let me end with the best example of paradoxical language—the famous prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, Lord Make me an Instrument of Peace. The conclusion of the prayer says:
“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.”


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