3RD APRIL 2022
LOSING EVERYTHING JUST FOR ONE THING.
What could motivate Paul in today’s Second Reading to count everything he had once valued as loss? Let us note keenly that Paul says everything. He does not say one thing or some things. He says everything, and everything means all things, it means all that exist or is very important, it means every single thing or every particular of an aggregate.
In most circumstances, we are normally encouraged not to lose everything that we have gained, cherished or worked hard for and so we strive to lose just one thing or a few things. Here, Paul is losing everything just to gain one thing , that is, the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord.
It seems that this one thing that Paul wanted to gain or gained, that is, the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord, was something very pertinent to him.
The image Paul employs is like that of an accountant’s ledger: all that he once would have placed in the assets column is now considered a debit, a loss. Paul, that is, would trade everything he once valued for what he now has.
Paul is not hypothetical. What he is saying is actual and true and truth is rarely simple and easy. He has actually lost all the things he once considered important for the sake of the Gospel.
What are things that Paul decided to lose so as gain just one thing, the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord? Our second reading from Philippians 3 starts from verse 8 but verses 5-7 mentions everything that he decided to lose and they are: being circumcised when he was a week old, being an Israelite by birth, belonging to the tribe of Benjamin, being a pure-blooded Hebrew, keeping the Jewish laws and persecuting the church.
If you look at those aspects you will notice that they are very pertinent to our daily worth because they involve our cultural values, communal belonging and religious convictions which all give us an identity and who are you without them, where do you stand without them?
Whatever advantages his position and identity created for him are now gone. Similarly whatever stability he might have known was traded in for an itinerant preacher and tent-maker (the profession by which Paul supported himself), and now he is in prison (he wrote the letter to the Philippians while in prison). Indeed he has lost it all, but let us not forget he has gained one worthy thing.
Yet he does not mourn or grieve or wallow in sadness.
The issue that we have in today’s Second Reading courtesy of Paul, is a pattern of loss and renewal and gaining that runs throughout our lives and it can be by choice and other times by chance, but here Paul is talking about loss, renewal and gain by choice.
For example, have you ever fallen in love and committed your life to another person? If so, you had to let parts of your old life go and something of your life died so that you could be with that other person. How about parenting? Haven’t you made sacrifices of yourself for the new life of your child or children to emerge and grow? Don’t we see here an emergence and growth and newness in Paul?
I do not know whether the woman caught in adultery in today’s Gospel Reading gained anything emotionally or materially from that sin that she is being accused of but if she gained and now Jesus is telling her,” Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again,” and she eventually decides not to sin again then we can say that she will lose all the benefits accruing from sin and gain a new identity of faith, character, and God’s grace.
Since Paul made a decision to lose everything so as to gain one thing that is more valuable, he rejoices, counting his earlier trophies not just as items on the debit side of the ledger but as valueless.
Why does Paul rejoice? Because in his encounter with God he discovered an invitation to a deep relationship that depended not on ethnicity or training or achievement or coercion but on God’s grace alone.
When you decide to count everything as a loss so that you can give one valuable thing, it means you have weighed the pros and cons of the counting. You do not just decide to lose everything for the sake of it but you lose due to a significant reason. From what people, relationships, situations, ideologies, places, behaviours, orders and rules and convictions do you need to lose so that you can gain only one much more valuable thing?