Grace to you!
Drawing from the Lord's message in Matthew 16:24-28, I share some thoughts on self-denial.
We are often in situations where we would have to choose between our legitimate good interest and somebody else's that is better for the common good. Other times, we would need to adjust or cut down our expectations or valid desires because it pleases the Lord. Many other times, we have to deal with our emotions and desires that aren't in line with God's will.
For those who are maturing in the spiritual life, there is more clarity about the line between good and evil. Deeper life, interior life in Christ, purifies our mind, fostering spiritual clarity. So, responding to God's grace, those maturing in the spirit tend to avoid unholy acts and desires more readily. But it gets tricky when it has to do with choosing between options that aren't in themselves evil. Still, by doing them, one wouldn't be practicing Christian charity or living virtuously. Such calls for a lot of discernment and self-denial.
One realizes that the more we grow in the love and knowledge of the Lord, the more the demands of self-denial and sacrifice. I remember what a spiritual director told me when I was in high school: "If you ask for the Holy Spirit, you are looking for trouble."
It isn't in a bad way, though, for the trouble he meant was being ready for my life to be turned upside down unto the way of holiness.
With time I began to understand this wise word from a wise spiritual director. The Holy Spirit started to redirect me to where I would rather not want to go. It is similar to what the Lord told Peter (Jn 21:18): A time comes when someone else would dress you and take you to where you would rather not want to go. Good thing, though, is that the trouble coming from the discipleship of the Lord is a joyful one, the way to glory.
No disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ finds it easier. When Peter tried to alter God's plan by persuading the Lord Jesus against a prophecy of torments, cross, and death (Mt 16:22), did he not get a harsh rebuke from the Lord? "Get behind me, Satan"? (Mt 16:23).
Then follows a powerful message for all: “[The Lord said] If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?” (Mt 16:24-26).
Yes, these words don't sound sweet and gentle. They aren't so pleasant for many of us who would want to avoid pain at all costs. Nor are they warming gospel to speak to a consumerist society like ours.
Little surprise, those who follow the Lord in this manner are few, very few. The good news is that those who do find real joy, freedom, and life after all. There is freedom in letting go of certain things so we can thrive. There is freedom in enduring some discomfort.
Here are two keys to practicing self-denial. 1) Detachment. Let nothing be worth more than ultimate loyalty to God, and love of neighbor. 2) Embrace the cross. Some discomfort is good for your wellbeing. Offer all of your suffering and difficulties as a gift to God for many, all these by God’s grace.
Praying for the grace to willingly take up our cross, the sufferings that come our way, and offer them as our intentional sacrifice for the salvation of many. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Friday Week 18 Ordinary Time: Dt 4:32-40; Mt 16:24-28]
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.