April 2019

April 2019

“Deny yourself…………and follow me”

Matthew 16.24   (various versions use this direct speech)

This is a very good saying for use as we continue the season of Lent. In its original context Jesus has questioned the disciples about his true identity - “who do you say I am?”.  Simon Peter has recognised him as the Messiah: “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” And it’s always for us, present day disciples, to keep coming back to this recognition of the true identity of Jesus Christ. After Simon Peter’s confession, Jesus goes on to spell out what this means. Firstly for him it means that suffering, death and resurrection lay ahead in Jerusalem. Then what it means for his disciples – “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their Cross and follow me.” (NRSV)

One of the ways of observing Lent is to give up a pleasure or something we enjoy for the six week period. This may well be called ‘self-denial’ but it is only really a small part of what Jesus means by denying yourself. To deny oneself means in every moment of life to say no to self and yes to God. It means denying the self in order to put God and others first. It means constant self-denial in order to give assent to Christ in all things. As St Paul writes

“that in everything He might be pre-eminent.” (Colossians 1.18)

The Christian life is sacrificial but this doesn’t need to be seen or understood in a harsh negative way. When Jesus says “follow me” he is inviting us to leave behind the negative stuff in our lives and look to him. Then we find that his ‘call’ on our lives is pre-eminent and diminishes any sense of what we might be giving up or self-denying. His ‘call’ is always in the continuous present; it is ‘now’ in whatever situation we find ourselves. Follow me now and I will show you what you need to know, say or do.

This is why the life of contemplation is so crucial because we give Him time to speak to us

in and through silence. We allow our spirits to become in tune with His. And we give time to intercessory prayer, praying the Word which goes out from us to those for whom we pray.