After examining the new translation of the Roman Missal for over a year, it seems clear that each word we use in celebrating the Paschal Mystery has a deep meaning in our spiritual journey. Since the words of the Mass are primarily Scriptural, the same is true for the Biblical passages we hear proclaimed during the Mass.
Yet at times, Jesus’ words in the Gospels seem to contradict themselves. On the one hand He asks us to love our enemies, but on the other He says that if we come to Him without hating our mother, or father, or brother, or sister, then we cannot be His disciples. That contradicts the Commandments.
As the Liturgical year comes to a close with the last two Sundays of the year we hear Jesus speak of the signs that accompany the coming and nature of His Kingdom. Strangely Jesus speaks in detail about what will happen just before the Kingdom comes — the sun will cease to shine, the stars will fall from the sky and the moon will go dark — and yet He tells us that no one knows when this will happen.
It is easy to look at such apparent contradictions and reason that it is impossible to rely on our faith since its source — the Scriptures — are filled with passages that cancel out each other. What helps is the awareness that life is full of contradictions. A few years ago it was announced that milk does a body good, but then a scientific study revealed that it doesn’t. That was later contradicted by another study that found milk does a body good again!
It seems every time someone predicts the end of the world they are incorrect, even though they have managed to convince a good many believers. Jesus teaches more about how to live here and now than He does preaching about our ultimate demise. He does not want us living in a state of panic, but of readiness. Ignoring our limited time on earth opens us to living foolish lives where we preoccupy ourselves with trivia, passing pleasures, and hopes that can never materialize.
The fact that we do not know either when time and the world will end, or when our time will need not scare us or cause us to close our minds to its inevitability. Vigilance can be a powerful energy supply to enjoy every moment of life, even when we are engaged in seemingly pointless activity.
The eternal perspective reveals that very little really matters, but that “very little” determines where we will spend eternity.
Faith ultimately supplies the answer to contradictions. Jesus doesn’t want us hating our family so much as He wants us to see our relationship with them in the context of His teachings. That is how we will really come to honor them. Jesus affirms the sanctity of life by His healing miracles, but went
to His death willingly so that we would not be afraid of the end.
The end is nothing to fear, but those who do so may be since it potentially indicates their hearts beat for this world, not the one to come. Perhaps that is the greatest contradiction of all.