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The need for self-denial

Christ said it very clearly. If we want to follow him, we should deny ourselves, carry the cross and follow him. (cfr. Mt 16,24) And only then can we be fruitful, both in our spiritual life and our apostolate.

This truth of our faith was somehow highlighted when Christ also said: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” (Mt 12,24)

This is again one of the paradoxes in Christian life. These paradoxes are unavoidable since we have to deal with the many conflicts and oppositions we have within ourselves and among ourselves, not to mention the tension among the different dimensions and aspects of our earthly life—the material and the spiritual, the natural and the supernatural, the temporal and the eternal, etc.

We have to learn how to be cool with this condition in our life, and avoid falling into unnecessary stress and worries. This is part of the territory. We can handle it perfectly well. We just have to have the right attitudes and skills.

But we cannot deny that we have to make sacrifices if we want to reap some fruits of sanctity and apostolate in our life. Self-denial is necessary since we often put ourselves in conflict with God’s will and ways. We prefer to do our own will.

Let’s do everything to develop this habit, if not, an instinct of abiding self-denial so that our mind and heart can only be open to the will and ways of God that often are shown to us through the needs of the others.

This habit of self-denial would enable us to do God’s work while being easily flexible and adaptive to the varying challenges and circumstances of the times. We have to be wary of our tendency to be trapped into some closed system of routine, if not to be imprisoned in our comfort-zone.

Self-denial will obviously involve certain detachment from things. That is why we should intensify our union with Christ as we immerse ourselves in the things of this world. We can do that if we know how to pray always, converting everything into a form of prayer, a form of engaging ourselves with God.

For this, we certainly need to train ourselves and to acquire a certain discipline, so that our union with Christ would be kept alive. We have to realize that our life is supposed to be always a life with Christ and for Christ.

Only then can we learn how to bear all things to achieve the fruitfulness of Christ who gained our salvation through his passion, death and resurrection. The paradox of dying in order to be fruitful would become a reality in our life.

In this regard, we have to meditate well on the passion, death and resurrection of Christ. It’s there where we are given a clear idea of how to suffer and die to ourselves so that, like Christ, we too can resurrect with him.

We have to learn how to assume the same motives that Christ had in going through his passion and death. It’s when we have the very mind and spirit of Christ as he faced his final act of love for us in obedience to the Father’s will that we can manage to face our suffering and death without fear—and have the fruitfulness of life.*

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