Grace and Peace to you.
If any want to become my followers,
let them deny themselves
and take up their cross and follow me.
This is more gentle than it sounds. To deny yourself is not to punish yourself, and not to live in denial, to turn your back on who you are, but the opposite.
We falsely see ourselves as finite, discreet individuals, separate from the world, and in danger at any moment of disappearing back into the abyss. It’s a “self” that the ego makes up out of nothing, but it’s convincing. We spend our lives—mostly unconsciously— protecting that little “self,” and in particular its power, security and esteem. (Hence Jesus’ temptations in the desert.) It’s what St. Paul calls “the flesh.” He doesn’t mean our body; he means something even smaller, contained within our body, limited by our fears and appetites.
But we aren’t such little “selves.” By the life of Holy Spirit in us we are members of the infinite Body of God, who dwells in us and we in God. We are sustained not by our own protection of our little lives but by the life-giving fountain of grace welling up within us to eternal life, flowing with perfect, infinite compassion.
To “deny ourselves” is to say no the illusion, to transcend our ego, to abandon our little skull-caged, death-leashed bit of fear and desire and instead become the infinitely alive and loving children of God we truly are. As those who embody God’s love we give of our lives for love; we are not afraid even of death, because we trust that by God’s grace in us life is infinitely replenished. So we follow Jesus out of our selves and into infinite life: without fear we take up our cross and join Jesus in loving the world into its newness.
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