Hello Everyone, I hope you’ve all had a wonderful summer. It’s flown by so quickly here on Charleston Lake. We’ve enjoyed every minute of creating cottage memories with our kids, grandchildren, extended family and friends.
Well, new beginnings are just around there corner as September approaches and children return to a new school year and parents feel rejuvenated as summer holidays come to an end.
Often I find that September brings about new personal goals for people and the increased desire for improved self-discipline and motivation towards achieving these goals. So, in staying along these lines I want to share a special teaching from Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 16, vs 24. “Then Jesus told His disciples, ‘whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me’.”
“Deny yourself.” Hmm that’s a toughy. What would happen to a group of people, who were encouraged from the day they were born to indulge every whim, desire and fantasy that entered their minds? Well, unfortunately, says Matthew Kelly, we are now witnessing whole generations of folks who have been raised on this misguided ideology. Remember, this is food for thought, people.
Consider another point of view. How often do we say no to ourselves? When was the last time you said no to yourself in something that was difficult? Do we understand the value of saying no to ourselves? Self-denial is the condition that Jesus sets for discipleship. Why is self-denial so important?
It’s about freedom and self-possession. The essence of Jesus’ teaching is love, but we can only love to the extent that we are free, and we are only free to the extent that we are able to say no or yes to anything. This self-possession determines our capacity for love. Love is to gift ourselves to another, love is self-donation and we can only gift ourselves to the extent that we possess ourselves, says MK.
Consider this, people who have no self-control are completely incapable of love. We see this on full display in people seriously addicted to alcohol and drugs. The ability to deny ourselves seems to be at an all-time low in today’s culture and loss of self at an all-time high. They are directly related.
On the other hand, those who have great self control, who can direct their thoughts and actions at will towards what is good, true, noble and just, are truly capable of great love. This is what Jesus desires for us. He wants us to be capalbe of great love. MK believes that this requires the freedom of self-possession, which can only be developed through the rigorous spiritual discipline of denying ourselves.
Notice that Jesus’ mandate is “daily”, not occasionally, or when we feel like it. Mastering anything requres daily practice. Denying ourselves in small things, tiny things, helps us develop soul strength just like lifting weights would help us develop muscle strength. We go for a walk when we don’t feel like it, we drink water instead of juice. Each tiny act of self-denial sets us free, increases our self-possession, strengthens our souls and as a result, expands our capacity to love and be loved. Jesus wants us to love and be greatly loved.
Perhaps the single idea of denying self is enough to understand why people in today’s culture are rejecting Christianity at an alarming rate. They see it as a limitation and imprisonment. Addicted to the selfish and childish notion that freedom is the ability to do whatever you want, whenever you want, they enslave themselves in a thousand ways and are anything but free.
And yet by rejecting the life that Jesus invites us to, we alienate ourselves from the one thing we desire more than anything else: Love.
The self-denial that Jesus invites us to is not life-limiting, it is life-expanding. At World Youth Day in 2001, Pope John Paul ll said “Jesus does not ask us to give up living, but accept a newness and fullness of life that only He can give.
The teachings of Jesus are full of paradox. Perhaps it’s by denying ourselves that we are set free to live life to the fullest. What do you think? Maybe we can all chew on Mathew Kelly’s wisdom for this August’s food for thought. Until next time.
Love MJ xo