Paradoxical Christianity

"Contemporary Christians need to recognize the basically paradoxical and ironic nature of Christian language and therefore of Christian faith"

"Our belief in Jesus Christ rests on the fact that Christ overturns our normal or commonsense notions of God, justice and salvation."

"If you read the teaching—and especially the parables—of Jesus closely, you will find that you are in a world turned upside down, here down-and-out sinners are welcomed back with open arms and workers who start late in the day are paid the same as those who begin work early, where the meek inherit the earth and the poor are given the kingdom of heaven."

When we talk about Jesus the king, or the sacrifice of the mass it is said with paradox. Jesus flips the idea of king. King is now powerful- it is powerless. King does not mean having servants it means being of service to others.

Take the cross for example, when we look at it from an ironic and paradoxical view it ONLY then becomes a sign of our faith, "What to normal sign looks like a disaster and failure is ultimately transformed into a source of life." Eucharistic "sacrifice" has the same ironic quality. "Christ's sacrifice is an ironic term, an anti-sacrifice a no to making scapegoats and working out our own failure, fears, and incapacities in the backs of others."

To be honest, there are times when church leaders seem to understand this paradoxical nature and seem not to. Catholic social teaching, preferential option for the poor and at moments bits of Vatican II seemed to grasp and even hold on this ironic shattering of the status quo.

On the other hand, I am always hesitant to go to mass on the Feast of Christ the King. On one hand we could look that this tremendous feast and celebrate that Jesus turns kingship into something totally different than one expects. Jesus power and makes it service, take relationships and goes towards the marginalized, takes death and defies it.

Rarely, though, have I been to a mass on Christ the King that "got it." And more importantly, it the church in its power (not ironic at all) is invested in literalness of it all. If we took the paradoxical nature of Jesus for what it is- then we would have to change more than just the power structures o the church.


Quotes from: Baldovin S.J, John F. Bread of Life, Cup of Salvation: Understanding the Mass. (Lanham, MD., Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2003.)





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