“God is mystery. This mystery is clearly revealed in paradox and balance. A paradox is an apparent contradiction that speaks of a deeper truth. Some paradoxes: 1.) We often find companionship, communion, and community in solitude. 2.) We often hear God’s Word best in silence. 3.) We find spiritual wealth in simplicity and poverty. 4.) We discover freedom in obedience to God and to His experienced teachers on earth.
We then go on to find such paradoxes as these: 1.) Glory in humility and even in humiliation. 2.) Peace in the midst of conflict. 3.) Joy in sorrow. 4.) Consolation in desolation. 5) Life in death.
These paradoxes all speak a deeper truth that can be understood on the deepest level by people searching for spiritual awakening in their lives. Paradoxes can open the doorway from the old, unhappy self to a new self, fulfilled in the Spirit of God.
These paradoxes are mysteries and cannot be comprehended by natural reason alone. They have a logic that defies mere human logic. To seek to understand such mysteries implies that one is opening up to the mystical, that which cannot be understood by logic alone.
But once we glimpse these paradoxes and mysteries, even from a distance, we see that all things proclaim a logic more complete and balanced than anything the world has ever known.”
—“Lessons from a Troubadour” by John Michael Talbot
We don’t like paradoxes because they aren’t easily explained systematically. We tend to prefer our knowledge to have a logical or predictable trajectory and result. But since our ways are not God’s ways, nor our thoughts His thoughts (cf. Is 55:8), we might sometimes feel frustrated that we don’t “get” God. Just look at the first reading: “The wolf shall be the guest of the lamb.” “The leopard shall lie down with the kid.” “The baby shall play by the cobra’s den.”
We might be thinking to ourselves, “WHAT?” This makes no sense! If a parent would let their infant child play in a snake den, a phone call would be placed to the proper authorities rather quickly. But there has to be some kernel of “kingdom logic” that is trying to be communicated in today’s readings. Perhaps we are being reminded by John the Baptist of the seemingly paradoxical nature of the person of Jesus. John’s message of repentance might be seen as jarring at least, offensive at best, but he is setting the stage for the coming of the Messiah and the new ways of the kingdom of heaven.
This message still makes us slightly uncomfortable today because of how distressing that first word is: repent. There are many connotations with that word, but if we look at it from the perspective of “heaven’s logic,” we can begin to understand the mystery of God’s coming to humanity in the form of a helpless baby born in obscurity.
As we train ourselves to become more comfortable with God’s ways — which, I will also attest, don’t always make the best pragmatic sense at the time — we will also begin to see that the logic of paradox is the way to describe how heaven’s logic is the path for which we had been searching all along. Maybe we need to go out into the desert in order to hear the voice of the one crying out. Maybe, it is in the desert that we can find the peace that surpasses all understanding.
Br. John-Marmion Villa, BSC
Dear heavenly Father,
open the eyes of my heart.
Heal my shortsightedness,
and the astigmatism of my soul.
I want to see all things
from your perspective,
including the hope to which you have called us.
To see with eyes of hope
means that I will be able to discern
your heart and hand at work everywhere.
Things are not as they appear to the natural eye.
You are working in all things all the time,
for your glory and our good.
I surrender today, gratefully, and expectantly.