Jesus said to his disciples, «If you want to follow me, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me. For whoever chooses to save his life will lose it, but the one who loses his life for my sake will find it. What will one gain by winning the whole world if he destroys himself? There is nothing you can give to recover your own self. Know that the Son of Man will come in the Glory of his Father with the holy angels, and He will reward each one according to his deeds. Truly, I tell you, there are some here who will not die before they see the Son of Man coming as king».
We continue our meditation from yesterday from detachment to self-denial. This self-denial is the fruit of external detachment which helps us to identify our own self. It is in this discovery of our own inner self, the pure self as God has created us, helps us to identify the false images that we have created, influenced by social and popular values.
This discovery de facto will lead us to choose the right self, which is ours and deny anything which hinders us to grow as the beloved of God. This inner self longs to be with God and God alone and the false self takes us, in the name of good and pleasing, away from God and the true Joy of being ourselves.
Jesus is in truth, is inviting us to be ourselves and deny this false self which the worldly desires propose to us. It’s not that the world is bad and evil, rather this worldly self may not help us to grow closer to God. The self-denial is the real cross that Jesus is asking us to carry. The continual process of self-denial as a daily cross will give life, not only to ourselves, but also for others. What is important in this ‘cross’ is that this process will assure us the resurrection, the perfect happiness, the fullness of JOY, that Jesus has promised us.
«If you want to follow me, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me»
Fr. Pedro IGLESIAS Martínez
(Rubí, Barcelona, Spain)
Today, the Gospel clearly confronts us with the world... It is absolutely radical in its approach, and it does not admit any half measures: «If you want to follow me, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me» (Mt 16:24). In many instances, when we are facing the suffering generated by us or by others, we can hear: «We have to accept the sufferings God sends us... This is God's will..., or words to that effect», and we keep on gathering sacrifices in very much the same way as those trading stamps we used to collect, with the hope of showing them at Heaven's audit department when our day to present our statements of accounts arrives.
But our suffering per se would be of little value. Christ was no stoic: He was thirsty, He was hungry, He was tired, He did not like to be forsaken. He let others to help him... Where He could, He soothed pain, whether physic or moral. So, what is happening, then?
Simple. Before loading with our “cross”, the first thing we must do is to follow Christ. It is not a matter of first suffering and then following Christ... Christ must be followed from our Love, and from there we can then understand the sacrifice, the personal negation: «For whoever chooses to save his life will lose it, but the one who loses his life for my sake will find it» (Mt 16:25). Love and mercy may lead us to sacrifice. Any true love engenders, one way or other, some sort of sacrifice, but not all sacrifice engenders love. God is not sacrifice; God is love, and only from that perspective pain, fatigue and the cross in our existence, have any meaning, following the model of man the Father reveals us in Christ. St. Augustine sentenced: «When one loves, one does not suffer; but if one does suffer, the very suffering is loved».
In the ensuing events of our life, we are not to seek a divine origin to explain our sacrifices and shortcomings: «Why is God sending this to me?», but we rather have to find a “divine usage” for them: «How can I transform this into an act of faith and love?». It is from this evaluation how we are to follow Christ and how —certainly— we may deserve the Father’s merciful glance. The same glance which the Father looked at his Son in the Cross, with.