Did you ever hear the expression ” it was bittersweet” or “you have to be cruel to be kind” or “jumbo shrimp”? (next time you walk down the frozen fish section and glance at the package of jumbo shrimp, I bet you will chuckle to yourself in the aisle!) Isn’t it interesting that we accept these paradoxes as relatively comomon place. In reality, the phrases completely contradict themselves and produce a seemingly nonsensical conclusion. In fact, they are quite amusing and allow us to play around with words, expressions and language.
Although some concepts may appear contradictory, further reflection may result in a clear and reasonable understanding of their claims. We see this from the earlier examples. Most would agree that cruelty opposes the virtue of kindness, while understanding that man may use cruel means to accomplish a kind end. This is the irony of the paradox. A sort of unintentional mind game with words.
Let’s shift now to look at the paradoxical realities within Sacred Scripture. I once heard someone speak of the paradox of faith and was immediately intrigued. I was determined to search for some of the paradoxes in which our Catholic faith is founded upon. What our faith proclaims and upholds is definitely counter-cultural, radical and intense. This is very challenging, for it goes against a lot of the norms of our society. Yet, when you ponder and contemplate each of these paradoxes, there is something so strikingly true and profound; something which tugs on our hearts.
In weakness we are made strong: ” For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong” 2 Corinthians 12:10
In death we have life: ” …For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live”- Romans 8:13
When you give, you receive: ” The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” -2 Corinthians 9:6
We believe, in what is unseen: “…because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” 2 Corinthians 4:18
In suffering we find glory: ” Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith; that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection of the dead”- Philippians 3:8-11
These are but a few of the countless paradoxes of faith. On the surface, they may appear impossible or seemingly nonsensical. With eyes of faith and trust in the Lord, we come to understand that these claims are reasonable, good, just and true. What an incredible call to trust in God’s great plan and design for humanity.