On Losing Our Life to Find It – A Meditation on a Paradox Taught by the Lord

In the Gospel of Mark, there is a funny story about Peter that speaks to the paradox of losing one’s life only to find it more abundantly:

Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first” (Mark 10:27-31).

Every priest knows well the paradox of these verses. Each of us gave up being a father (of children) and yet thousands call us “Father.” We gave up the bride of our dreams and yet have the most beautiful and perfect bride: the Church. She is beautiful indeed, but has a long “honey do” list! And as for buildings and land? We do not have our own home out in the suburbs on a quarter acre of land. Instead, we oversee multimillion dollar buildings, quite often occupying an entire city block or a country acre. Talk about receiving a hundredfold! Every priest knows the richness of his life in terms of buildings and land, but above all in people, in family.

And such is the paradox of losing one’s life only to find it even more richly.

I think that God has a certain sense of humor about this as well and must have Himself a good laugh as we begin to realize the paradox.

I remember once, back when I was considering the priesthood, that it occurred to me with some relief that at least I wouldn’t have to worry about losing my job or keeping a roof over the head of my family. Hah! God must have had a good laugh at that thought of mine. I, too, had to laugh as I signed checks this summer in excess of $300,000 to replace the roof on our school. Somehow we will manage to recover financially, but it’s going to be a difficult year. I just cannot avoid a smirk and an eye roll when I think back on my once naïve notion of the financial ease of being a priest. What was I thinking?

But God has been good to me, so very good. In losing “my own family” I gained God’s family. In setting aside something less, I obtained something greater, far greater than I could ever have imagined. I forsook the rich blessing of marriage and family only to be astonished at the even larger family that would be mine.

Somehow for all of us the paradox rings true. When we lose our life to this world in some way, God has even greater things waiting. My mother set aside the more lucrative salary of a public school teacher in order to teach in a Catholic School, but by her own testimony she got back more than she ever gave up. I know another woman who left a six-figure salary to be a full-time mother. The beautiful and holy title of “Mom” meant so much more to her than her former executive title (Ma’am).

In losing our life we find it. Yes, while the full impact of this will only be seen in Heaven, many of us do learn and experience this truth even here, as a kind of foretaste. St. Paul expressed the rich tapestry of the paradox best of all. Looking to his own life and the lives of those who accompanied him, he could only marvel as he said,

We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything (2 Cor 6:8-10).

Yes, all is lost, yet all is gained. Some is gained even right here in this world, as a kind of foretaste, but one day all will gained beyond measure. Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matt 10:39). Yes, Lord, and we will find it in abundance! Thank you, Lord.

What is your story of losing your life to this world only to find it more abundantly in the Lord?

17 Replies to “On Losing Our Life to Find It – A Meditation on a Paradox Taught by the Lord”

  1. Submission to ISIS is suicide.
    Submission to Christ is freedom.

    Thinking of the good Samaritan.

    Confused. We are to allow ISIS to continue their mayhem?

    We are not to kill them?
    What about those “under authority?”

  2. I have a difficult time with these types of questions. Living in a wealthy prosperous country, United States, where even many of those who purportedly are poor by government standards, live with amenities that my ancestors would never have dreamed of possessing, life overall for most is good. Also, I have never lived with discrimination or repression due to my religious beliefs and probably never will. Yes, I am in a predicament shared by many in the American Catholic Church: “lukewarm.”

    1. Again, not sure what this has to do with this post. Of course your are replying to questions that I think were off target too. so the puzzlement goes back to Philip

  3. My life plans fell through last year,and I was left devastated with no idea what to direction to move in. Now, after many tears and prayers, I am very happy, and my life is moving in a wonderful direction. I had to lose my life so that I could give it to Christ and find it again. I couldn’t have been this happy if my life hadn’t hit a brick wall last year. Deo gratias!

  4. This could also be applied to our physical senses!

    The more we live under the pleasure of our physical senses the more we lose the spiritual senses, and vice versa!

    Also while praying, the more we take pleasure through our senses, the more we would be away from the divine union!

    1. Yes, as my hearing and seeing have become poor, my spiritual versions of these senses have become better.

  5. I too have discovered the “truth” in the words of Christ. I can only say I have felt more joy than tribulations. My sadness only shows when I cannot convey this joy and happiness on others to convince them that they too can live and experience this joy. I also feel so unworthy, for I do not feel I have been tested and that perhaps that time will soon come when the darkness of the soul will possess me. I pray I will be able to cling to the knowledge that no matter how much my feelings assault me in the darkness and desolation of my soul, that I be given the grace to cling to the words of Jesus: “Behold I am with you until the end of time”. Blessings and prayers for your wisdom and service Monsignor Pope.

  6. Twofold: (1) Before I reverted to the Catholic Church in 1992, I had a very successful professional career as an attorney, was in multiple professional groups, had lots of friends, etc. Upon converting (and this also entailed changing my position on the life issues from total “choice” to pro-life), I was confounded to find that all of my non-practicing Catholic friends were not only aghast, but insisted that I “get over it.” Eventually, I lost almost all of those friends; however, in retrospect, these were never really true friends to begin with.
    (2) My husband has been disabled since 1995, and we are not sexually active. I became severely diabetic at almost the same time. This has turned out to be a great blessing in disguise, as I have been able to develop a very intense prayer life (I believe that the apostolate of intercessory prayer, or being a “prayer warrior,” is not spoken about enough). This has been a magnificent blessing, and a powerful sign that God can bring abundant graces and blessings out of an apparently woeful situation–I have no regrets whatsoever about the way things have turned out.

  7. It’s that ‘with persecutions’ clause that holds me back. I know there are many joys that cannot be appreciated from the outside – evangelical poverty, a large family, probably consecrated life – just to name a few, but the ‘with persecutions’ part, in fact any kind of suffering, just scares me lukewarm.

  8. Priests are indeed real treasures of our Church and you’re very precious Father, keep on surprising us by sharing new insights..

  9. When I was young I had to distance myself from my best friends due to their poor choices. In college again I had to distance myself again from so called friends who did not have my best interests in mind. In marriage, I am constantly dying to my self interests for the betterment of my spouse and children. In my career, steps backwards in the eyes of the world often open more time for good things. With all this said though I recognize that there are plenty of additional opportunities to die to myself.

  10. I certainly had to lose my life to find it. I thought I knew how my life should go. Such foolishness and pride! It all fell apart. After that through a series of events I was led into the Catholic Church. That was the last place I thought I would be. The church I went to all my life was anti-Catholic, not overtly, but anti-Catholic for sure. Now in the Catholic Church I have more joy and peace then I ever had! Even during difficult times I have peace. I have never met so many genuine, joy-filled and generous people before coming into the Catholic Church. Thank you Msgr. Pope, I am blessed through everything you write.

  11. i lost everything that mattered to me 9 years ago. 4 family members, including my husband of 35 years, within a years time. i lost money and even our home. i surrendered to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and gained riches and blessings. When i surrendered, the Lord asked me what i wanted from Him. i told Him peace, security and just enough income to survive and a bit more. i took private vows before Him that same night of poverty, chastity and obedience. Through the Holy Spirit, i was told He required continent celibacy from me. Through His help alone, He received it.

    He called me to ministry out on the streets. As an ambassador for Christ and the Catholic Church. Since then, He has blessed me with so many miracles and blessings, i weep with gratitude and love. Persecutions i have suffered from within my own family and from without too. i count it all good. For Jesus Christ is all my treasure. I love Him. He has taken His broken child and healed me of things i never even knew were within me. i gave up nothing really, as the world counts such things. How i pray, every single day, that we can all experience the joy in Christ Jesus.

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