March 6 - Thursday after Ash Wednesday
Thursday after Ash Wednesday
Lk 9: 22-25
In only one verse Jesus reveals the whole mystery of his suffering, death, and resurrection. The Son of Man is his favorite way of describing himself. It tells of his being born as a human being with all the weaknesses this entails; it also speaks of his divinity as he comes upon the clouds (see Dan 7: 13-14). In this announcement Jesus attempts to make clear to the apostles that he is not the kind of Messiah they think he is: one who overpowers their enemies by force. Rather he is the Suffering Servant spoken of by Isaiah 53 who takes upon himself the sins of the people and suffers and dies for their redemption and salvation. Thus he is a spiritual Messiah. Once they recognize him to be the Messiah, he quickly explains what kind of Messiah he is going to be.
Having explained himself, Jesus then addresses himself to everyone else. He states that each one’s redemption and salvation will also take place through the cross. There is something about human nature that needs purification. Accepted suffering accomplishes this great good. It brings out our spiritual nature. We are made to endure suffering through spirit assertiveness. When the spirit habitually prevails, we are raised to a higher level of being and disposed for union with God.
Self-denial must be practiced to redirect our sinfully inclined human nature. We need to curb our pleasure appetite to make it conform to God’s will. Otherwise selfishness tends to rule our lives. The flesh rather than the spirit then dictates our actions.
Taking up our cross also means that we must accept the sufferings that occur in our daily lives as a manifestation of God’s permissive will for us. Our limited creation often falls short of our needs and expectations. We are called to bear these patiently. In this way our wayward human nature is gradually purified of its sinful tendencies.
To attempt to “save” one’s life by self-indulgence is to lose it spiritually; to lose one’s life by self-denial is to save it spiritually.
To attempt to gain the whole world by exclusively exhausting one’s energies in attaining it would mean that one has nothing reserved for eternal life.