The readings today are powerful as always. But it is the First Reading that really grabs me with its inherent contradictions. Saint Paul tells the Philippians that his “joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.” His joy and his crown. Christ will change our bodies to be like His glorious body. The body that was brutalized and mutilated before and during the crucifixion. His head crowned with a crown of thorns crushed into His skull. And Saint Paul is calling us to join him in imitation of Christ.
Which kind of crown is Saint Paul talking about here? On the one hand it is a crown of a king. On the other it is the crown of a dying man, ridiculed by soldiers on His way to die on gory death. Two different crowns. All the same Person. All embodied in this Person we want to imitate. Someone so powerful He can “subject all things to [h]imself.”
Another contradiction. He can subject us to Him. He can override our desires and make us obey // worship // follow // be like Him. But he doesn’t. He has a crown waiting in the commonwealth of Heaven for us. He wants us to live differently. He wants us to choose Him // love // truth // non-materialism. He’s inviting us to embrace pain and suffering to live closer to Him.
Ack! Embrace a crown of thorns? I’d prefer the tiara, please. Embrace a life dictated by my belly, desires, and joyfully rampant materialism? Now that sounds more like what I’m naturally drawn to, with a little window dressing of spirituality. We’re talking major overhaul here. We’re talking saying no to myself and my needs and wants and desires and instead saying yes to the harder things.
Not buying that $4 hot cocoa that I really want and saving that money to stay within our food budget. Not spending the extra time scrolling the inter web on my iPhone but getting up once the baby is done nursing to tidy up the house and make my husband’s lunch. Not longing for beautiful clothing that is simply not within our budget (and not complaining about that budget). Have a body that’s been through the physical trauma of childbirth three times over (and hopefully many more times again). Have wrinkles and lines and sags and bags and trust that this body will be glorified by Christ later, much later.
When we choose to say no to ourselves and yes to the crown of thorns, to a mama’s body that’s been crushed by carrying and nursing three kids, can we do it with joy? Which part of our crown are we struggling with wearing? And how can we become beloved with Christ without sharing His crown?
Nell O’Leary is an attorney turned stay-at-home mom to three lovelies. She and her husband live in the great city of Saint Paul. You can find out more about her here.