Lewis Carroll’s book, “Through the Looking Glass” is about a mirror-image world. The book starts with the young girl Alice wondering what is on the other side of the mirror above the mantelpiece. She clambers up to it and is astonished to find she can step through the looking glass into an alternative world. Among many other surprises Alice discovers that, paradoxically, in that world, to get to a chosen point, you have to walk in the opposite direction. That appears to be sheer nonsense but makes sense in a looking-glass alternative world.
The gospel reading for the 2nd Sunday of Lent this year (Mark 8: 31 - 38) contains an equally surprising paradox: to save your life you must lose it. Or, as Jesus said,
"..those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it." (Mark 8: 35)
The outspoken Peter thought Jesus was speaking dangerous nonsense, the opposite of what he wanted to hear about Jesus' understanding of his mission and what following him involved.
For Christ, on the way to the cross, there were no half-measures.
When I first learnt to swim, I was scared to take my feet off the bottom of the swimming pool. I pretended to swim, but kept one foot on the bottom, so I got nowhere. Eventually I learnt to abandon the safety of walking on the bottom in the shallow end, to discover the joy of swimming. I learnt to trust the water. To follow Jesus is to take the risk of trusting him, even when we are out of our depth or the way seems the opposite one from the obvious or usual choice.
Today’s Gospel is about the commitment of Jesus to God’s way of love and his challenging invitation to follow that way. It reminds me of the fable of the chicken and the pig:
A chicken and a pig got chatting. “They are good people at the farm”, said the chicken. The pig nodded. “They are kind,” said the chicken. “Yes”, nodded the pig. “Times are hard for farmers,” went on the chicken, “I think we should do something for them”. The pig could not imagine what, but he listened to the chicken’s idea. She said, “Why don’t we give them something they really enjoy.” “Like what?” asked the pig. “I was thinking,” said the chicken “that we should give them…BACON AND EGGS!” The pig dug all 4 trotters into the ground, lifted his snout in the air and said, “Absolutely no way! For you that’s just a minor inconvenience. For me it’s TOTAL COMMITMENT.”
(See also Costly Commitment here.)
Image Credit: Colin Smith on Geograph, CC License