Peter began to say to Jesus, “We have given up everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come. But many that are first will be last, and the last will be first” (Mark 10:27-31).
Every priest knows well the paradox of these verses. Each of us gave up being the 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 indeed beautiful but has a long “honey do” list! As for buildings and land? We don’t have our own homes on a parcel of land, but we oversee multimillion dollar buildings, quite often occupying an entire city block or a country acre. Talk about receiving back a hundredfold! Every priest knows the richness of his life in terms of buildings and land, but above all in people—in family.
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 a few of years ago totaling more than $300,000 to replace the roof on our school. Somehow, we survived just fine financially. Next, come the boilers and other big-ticket items! I just can’t 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?
God has been good to me, so very good. In losing “my own family” I gained God’s family. In setting aside something lesser, 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 stay-at-home mother. The beautiful and holy title of “Mom” meant so much more to her than her former executive title.
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. 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, but all is gained. Some is gained even right here in this world, as a kind of foretaste, but one day all will be 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?
Marriage and family are wonderful gifts. That some are called to forsake them for the kingdom points to the depth of the sacrifice, but the return is immeasurable.