(Each Saturday, a religious leader offers a personal perspective in this space. To be part of this series, email email@example.com)
Then Jesus said to his disciples: “If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
The “way of the cross” is the way of “our cross” that the Lord Jesus tells us to “travel” if we really want to follow him as his disciples.
Unfortunately, so many people in our world are fixated on the temporary – obtaining material possessions and while living primarily in a physical world, lose sight of their true spiritual nature and lack any spiritual foundation. We are reminded in Matthew 7:24-27 of the wisdom of building your house on rock rather than sand.
On Ash Wednesday, the Christian church entered Great Lent, a 40-day period of dark and sober reflection. Ashes are distributed to the faithful to remind them of their two natures, physical and spiritual. During Lent, the Christian church calls on all its members to stop and reject anything that would prevent them from knowing God better. The teachings of Jesus remind them not to focus on the physical and the temporary, but rather to concentrate and seek the spiritual and the eternal.
Didn’t Jesus teach in Matthew 6:33 to “seek first the kingdom of God”? Seeking God during Lent leads us into the solitude of our personal “desert”, just as Jesus was led by the Spirit into his desert. We see this personal journey taking place within, for in Luke 17:17-21 Jesus taught that “the Kingdom of God is within.”
So what did Jesus mean when he said, “deny”? Some think Lent means giving up “stuff” for 40 days, from chocolate to alcohol to cutting back on time spent watching TV or playing video games. But Lent is about more than letting go of things, for it is not so much about letting go of things but rather about discerning and “taking on” a new attitude, a new self, and reflecting on what is really important in life and what is not. We are reminded that Jesus taught in Mark 2:22 that “no man puts new wine into old wineskins; for if he does so, the wine bursts the skins, and the wine is lost, as well as the skins; but new wine is for fresh skin.
During Lent, the Church invites all its members to take personal inventory and contemplate the Lord’s Passion and His sacrifice offered on the cross. The message of the “Good News” of Jesus is not only that of redemption and salvation, but also that of sacrifice, always seeking to praise God.
Lent is also a time that calls all believers to practice the three main principles of Lent: fasting, prayer and almsgiving. It is through abstinence from fasting, the use of prayer and the reading of the Word of God, and acts of Christian charity, that one begins to see Jesus more clearly – His sacrifice and the true costs of The “follow”.
Saint Paul, in his First Letter to the Church at Corinth 1:18, writes: “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are saved it is the power of God.
So, let all who choose to walk with the Lord Jesus during this time of Lent enter their “wilderness” and strive to grow spiritually in the teachings of the Lord Jesus. Saint Paul instructs his listeners in Ephesians 5:1: “Be therefore imitators of God, as beloved children and walk in love, as Christ loved you and gave himself up for us as an offering and a sacrifice to God.
The Holy Name of Jesus PNC Church is located at 15 Thayer Street, South Deerfield. We are a family church founded in 1929 by a community of parishioners whose legacy of spiritual freedom is still with us after 80 years. We are a democratic, non-papal, family-oriented Catholic parish with a liturgical style of worship. Follow us on Facebook. 413-665-2129.