Post date: Apr 8, 2013 6:53:19 PM
Following up on last week’s thoughts, it is good to remember that the world is created good. We read in the Bible that “wine gladdens the heart of man” (Ps. 103:15), that “the marriage bed is undefiled” (Heb. 13:4), and that God worked for six days before resting on the seventh (cf. Gen. 1-2). Thus, we see that the value of earthly things is determined by their use: they can be the means by which we sin or satisfy our passions, or they can be sanctified through our actions.
Whenever we sanctify the world around us, we are in the proper relationship with God. What happens in those other cases? Today’s feast is the perfect beginning to changing things in our lives and reorienting those parts of our lives where we fall short of the glory of God towards Him. Today, the Lord tells us, “"If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mk. 8:34).
Our salvation, thus, comes through self-denial. What things are we to deny ourselves? The list is long and different for each one. Let’s list a few things, though, in no particular order. We should deny ourselves:
- Gluttony. The periods of fasting are a great tool towards this self-denial.
- Anger. We are told to “be angry but sin not.” Generally, the saints have said that anger should be directed at our sins. It is also possible, though difficult, to be angry without sinning when trying to right a wrong done to someone else. Strangely enough, the Fathers do not justify the anger that seems to be most common: when wrong is done against us.
- Our mouths. It is easy to let things slip in conversation. From one thing to another, we get to the point where, without even noticing, we are dissecting someone else’s life, or assuming motives for that person’s actions, or who knows what else. When in doubt, let us listen to the psalm: “Set a watch, O Lord, about my mouth, and a protecting door about my lips.”
- Our ears. It is tempting to listen when “something juicy” is the topic of conversation.
- Our eyes. What do the TV shows we watch say about us? The internet sites we visit? The papers and magazines that we might still buy? Often, the words we read or the images we see produce a reaction in us; they shape our sensitivities. Our eyes are the gateway to our souls and it is worth guarding the things we allow into our souls.
Denying ourselves these things can feel like picking up a cross, but it only feels that way when the things we deny have become a part of our identity. The beautiful thing is that, in time, this feeling of struggle gives way to peace; the peace that comes from a lack of anger, from knowing that no words we have said hurt anyone, from our souls being at peace because nothing harmful has entered into our souls.
May our Lord grant us the courage and the strength to pick up our crosses and follow Him.
With love in Christ,