Sunday, September 20, 2015

Met Georges Khodr: Deny Yourself and Follow Me

Arabic original here.

Deny Yourself and Follow Me

In today's Gospel reading, the Lord talks about self-denial when He says, "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." Then He says, "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?"

The question posed here is this: how does the Lord want people do deny themselves and then gain their souls? As if these two things are mutually contradictory.

His saying in the first passage, "let him deny himself," means for a person to free himself from his lusts, from all his passions and his worldliness. He thought that his soul, that is his essence, is in the world, which he gulped down, ate, mastered and glorified in. This person thought that he existed if he acquired possessions or became great among his people. This person finds himself in the eyes of others. They see him as great, so he is great. They see him as clever, so he grows in greatness. However, if he stood alone before the Lord, he would see himself as empty. The hollow man fills himself with everything in this world in order to be able to know that he exists.

Each of us is struck with this affliction to varying degrees and so the Lord says: Deny yourselves. Reject your wealth. Reject your glories. Glories may come to you, but count them as nothing. Wealth may come to you, but count it as nothing. Various sorts of pleasures may come to you. Refrain from them and consider them fleeting. In this way you will overcome the world even as you are in the world.

Do not think that you are something important, as any ailment could beset you in an instant. One who knows that he will die knows that he is as nothing in his life. If you arrive at denying not only your sins and lusts, but at denying yourselves, then you will gain your souls because you will have said to the Lord: "Lord, we have understood that we are nothing and You are everything. Come, Lord Jesus, and fill our souls with Your presence." If you receive, you will taste this presence. It will begin to give you being. You will come into being from God. You will become new people. Everything you have and everything within you is from Him and you are grateful to Him at all times.

This compels us to follow the Teacher until the end, for each one of us to take up the cross and follow the Master. This is the cross: that we put to death everything that impedes our path to Christ and he path does not end at Golgotha. But how do we die with Christ? We mortify this body and its passions. He who has the power to consider all of life as nothing, to obliterate it in his eyes, in his heart, draws near to self-denial. If we do not do this, we remain bewildered between God and Satan. Why must we love the cross? Who loves the instrument of his torture? The cross is suffering and the Lord asks us to accept suffering gladly or to be pleased with it because of what awaits us after it, because of the joy that will dwell within us if we embrace the Crucified One, if we abstain from this world.

"Deny yourself and follow Me." A person does not love another person until the end. Usually a person does not die for the sake of another person. Each of us dies alone. But there is one person who loved us until the end. Christ was able to come down to earth not only for all of us, but for each of us individually. Each of us is loved individually and therefore we can bear the cross of the One who loved us and gave Himself up for us.

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