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Something that is almost forgotten in modern society, as well as to many Catholics and Christians in general is the act of dying daily to ourselves in order to live in Christ. It was Christ himself who stated constantly in the Gospels the necessity of carrying one’s cross and of denouncing ourselves for the Kingdom of Christ. He stated in (Mathew 10:38-39) “And he who does not take up his cross and follow me, is not worthy of me”. He who finds his life will lose it and he who loses his life for my sake, will find it. He later stated in (Mathew 16:24-26) “If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. For he who would safe his life will lose it, but he who loses his life for my sake will find it”.

This command for the Christian by Jesus seems quite radical and yet contradictory. “How can we gain life by losing it? With a little bit of logic however we can find that it is not a contradiction, but rather a paradox (two things that seem contradictory but are actually true). Christianity is the religion of paradox: “That God would be human, that life comes from death, that achievement comes through failure, that folly is wisdom, that happiness is to mourn, that to find one must lose, and that the greatest are the smallest. What is paradoxical about the mysteries of the faith is that reason cannot fully penetrate their meaning, so that what seems contradictory to reason is profoundly true in terms of faith”.1It is when we understand this notion of paradox and that at the same time there are some things beyond human reason that we ought to put our faith in God that we can really understand what it means to die to ourselves.

We see how in modern society this is often not the case. People giving in daily to their passions, sinful behavior, greed, avarice, and homosexuality. Even things like abortion are not uncommon, for most people fear the loss of a possibility of a career if a baby should happen to come their way. This is the result of a lack of faith in God’s divine providence. It is not only in sin though that we fail to carry our crosses, but also in not practicing temperance and penance, abstinance, and the like that we fail to carry our crosses. Father George Leo Haydock in his Haydock Commentary states the two ways in which we are to carry our crosses.

There are two kinds of crosses which our Saviour here commands us to take up: one corporal, and the other spiritual. By the former, he commands us to restrain the unruly appetites of the touch, taste, sight, &c. By the other, which is far more worthy our notice, he teaches us to govern the affections of the mind, and restrain all its irregular motions, by humility, tranquillity, modesty, peace, &c2

Jesus thus reminds us to deny ourselves not only from that which is morally bad such as sin (which we should always avoid) but even from genuinely good things such as when we abstain or fast from food, water or sleep. Not because these things such as food and water are bad, but that by sacrificing and giving these goods up, we get the greatest good in return, namely God and Christ. “But if he continues moderately happy as to temporal concerns till death, and places his affections on them, he hath found life here, but shall lose it in the next world. But he that shall, for the sake of Christ, deprive himself of the pleasures of this life, shall receive the reward of a hundred fold in the next”.3

This is what reminds me as I am discerning the priesthood and the religious life that the priesthood is a calling that involves a lot of sacrifice and constant dying to ourselves. For just as marriage involves the sacrifice of complete faithfulness to one’s wife, as well as of using most of one’s time for raising a family, the priesthood itself is a sacrifice. By being a priest I am giving up a great good and vocation, namely that of marriage and of starting a family, for a greater good and vocation, that of serving Christ in the priesthood. It is one of constant dying to oneself, of letting God take me where He wills, and not where I will.

I am often reminded of a Spanish hymn often presented in a Spanish Mass as well as funerals done in Spanish titled Entre Tus Manos (In your hands) The hymn states that in order to live we ought to die, it is the same theme as talked about above in which we find life when we lose it.

It is pretty silly when Christians in the modern world pretend to be able to live differently than that of Christ. For where Christ suffered even to death on a cross, many Christians live even to death of their soul. As Catholics are we not to imitate Christ in his life? Thomas Kempis in his book The Imitation of Christ describes how the Crucifixion of Christ relates to our own selves. “How is it, then that you seek any other way to heaven than this plain, high way of the Cross? All the life of Christ was Cross and martyrdrom; do you seek pleasure and joy? 4

When we let ourselves follow Christ the way he will and not our way, but rather die to ourselves that we many live in Christ that we can really be truly happy and prosperous. This is not to happen in this life but in the next.



notes:

1) CatholicCulture Dictionary: Paradox
2) Fr George Leo Haydock’s Haydock Commentary
3) Ibid
4) Thomas Kempis: Imitation of Christ pg 96