“A man’s true progress consists in denying himself, and the man of self-denial is very much at liberty, and very secure.” (IC 3,39,4) | “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mt 16:24)

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XXXIX: “A Man must not be too Anxious in his Affairs” (first entry)

The plea that Kempis puts on Christ’s lips is that we entrust all that we do to Him. We are to wait patiently for His response and not become unduly anxious or consumed with our own whims and desires that often change, even once we have attained our goal. True progress in this life is found in the quote above.

|Today’s Gospel reading: Mt 16:21-27

Jesus predicts His passion and death to His disciples eliciting Peter’s infamous remark that may God forbid this from happening. Jesus retorts with the stinging words, “Get behind me Satan. You are an obstacle to me.” The Messiah then goes on to tell His followers the necessity of self-denial, suffering, and even death, if they are to faithfully follow Him. They will be repaid by the Father accordingly.

|Reflection

It is widely believed that self-denial is an undesirable thing. “Just do it.” “You deserve a break today.” “Indulge yourself.” These are the messages that permeate our airwaves and devices. Denying oneself? Not so popular a message. Even many fad diets and health programs promise much gain with little pain. Jesus Christ ensures us that self-denial is a requirement of the Christian. Because He likes to see us sad or suffering? No. Because He knows what is best for us, not only because He created us, but also from personal experience.

This is how Kempis can say that “the man of self-denial is very much at liberty, and very secure.” Detachment from sin goes without saying. But even setting aside goods is beneficial to us. There are many pleasant and uplifting things in this world that God has supplied. We can and should enjoy them — in moderation. Even initially wholesome pursuits of temporal things can, over time, consume us. The good Lord made created things good in the beginning and that good continues in many of them. But this fact should always direct our hearts and minds back to the Creator. Being consumed with things of this world leads to a certain slavery and insecurity (obsession with pursuing it and a fear of losing it). Let us always be thankful to God for what He has provided but may we never lose sight of our ultimate goal: life eternal. This should be our only obsession to gain and our only dread to lose.

Take Up Your Cross – First Baptist Owasso

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