When ‘I’ can be hard to go – Friday, 18th Week in ordinary time- Matthew 16: 24-28
Chapters 14 to 17 of the Gospel of Matthew have the disciples of Jesus acknowledging who He truly is; the Son of God. The passage of today is a section of what is called, ‘Jesus’ first passion prediction’. The pericope of humiliation, suffering and death is sandwiched between two great narratives. These narratives reveal Jesus as the “Beloved Son of the Living God.”; namely the confession of Peter and the Transfiguration.
The passage of today has five saying, all addressed to the disciples. The first three which address the issues of the cost of discipleship, can be understood as a commentary on the great commandment to love God with all ones heart, soul and strength. The last two saying in verse 27 and 28 involve an apocalyptic picture (dealing with the end times) of the rewards of discipleship. (Taken from the JBC)
Jesus is highlighting two approaches to life. We can deny self and take up the cross or love self and ignore the cross. Interestingly, the cross is always at the centre of our decisions as Christians. Perhaps the reason why people seem alarmed when they read this text is because they do not recognize the meaning of the text and merely see it as five demands that Jesus makes on a disciple. Or perhaps, on reading verses like verse 26, which is greatly quoted as the verse of scripture that St Ignatius said to St Francis Xavier, in order to win him over to Christ, we think that such demands of discipleship are reserved for the saints and not for us.
So if I want to purchase a two tone pique t-shirt or a midi dress with a shirred waist, should you simply say no because Christ asked me to deny myself? Denying oneself is not looked at in a narrow way of denying ‘things for yourself’ but simply ‘denying self’. What Christ is asking of us to do is to say a yes to Him and no to self. It is putting God first and self-second.
If you look at the word SIN the central letter of the three letter composition is ‘I’. Sin would not be sin if it was not dominated by ego and the self. Denying oneself is to take oneself off the throne of life and to enthrone Christ. Try the same word sin, now replaced with the letter ‘O’; ‘O’ for others. The word reads SON.
The movement from SIN to SON is the shifting of one letter of the alphabet, and yet ‘I’ can be so hard to go. The call of Christ to his disciples is a call to abandon all personal ambitions in order to serve Him alone.
Fr Warner D’Souza