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March 2 Thursday After Ash Wednesday - Jesuits of North-West Africa Province | Society of Jesus

THURSDAY AFTER ASH WEDNESDAY

March 2, 2017

 

 

Gospel: Luke 9:22-25

by *Fr. Tersoo Gwaza, S.J.

What does it mean to deny oneself, to take up one's cross and to follow Jesus? Theologically speaking, to deny oneself implies to “act in a total selfless manner without concern for personal advantage or convenience but open to ‘the things of God’… in favor of the divine necessity of his suffering and death.” In addition, “This utterance of Jesus challenges all believers to authentic discipleship and total commitment to himself through self-renunciation and acceptance of the cross of suffering, even to the sacrifice of life itself.”  Stated differently, to take up one’s cross [“Stauros σταυρός is the Greek word, usually translated cross, that in the Bible is used in reference to the device on which Jesus was executed.” Moreover, the cross “was well known to Jews as the ultimate Roman punishment,”] means the willingness to accept rejection, oppositions, sufferings, etc., for the sake of the kingdom of God. “Thus, for the followers of Jesus to ‘take up one’s cross’ means both to be willing to accept, like Jesus, the literal ‘cross’ of a martyr’s death by crucifixion and/or to accept the metaphorical ‘cross’ of whatever opposition, rejection or suffering comes one’s way in accord with God’s will.” On the contrary, “Those who are bent on saving their bodily life at the cost of the treachery [betrayal] to Jesus and his mission will experience only its loss, whereas those who sacrifice their life for a higher goal, for the sake of Jesus and the gospel, will save their true self.” In other words, the mission of Jesus should be the priority of his disciple, even if it means to sacrifice our lives for the sake of others and the gospel. Jesus will in turn bless and reward us with eternal life in his Father’s kingdom. This is what is implied by ‘losing to gain.’

My dear friends, it is crucial to note that “…our whole culture so urges us on to become the ‘man [woman] who has everything’ that these words represent a total reversal of our values... Such a deliberate reversal is what ‘repentance’ means. It means turning away from one set of values and accepting another.” We live in a world that is characterized by money and materialism. Many people are very materialistic, and often think that their wealth can buy them happiness and eternal life. Undeniably, life is more enjoyable when one has money and material things. However, wealth and money cannot guarantee one’s happiness or eternal life. Moreover, “Profiting by gaining the whole world (having) is judged useless besides forfeiting one’s life (being). If a man [or a woman] has literally spent his [or her] life to gain money, for example, what he [or she] has spent is infinitely more precious than what he or she has gained. The loss is irrevocable…Nothing is more precious than the gift of life itself.” Thus, we are encouraged to pursue spiritual things, such as life and the kingdom of God that are eternal, rather than focusing on material things, which are perishable.

May God grant us the "Spiritual Capital" to deny ourselves, to carry our crosses daily and to follow Jesus, particularly during this time of Lent. Remember, if there is no cross, there would be no crown! If there is no Good Friday, there would be no Easter Sunday! Are we ready to deny ourselves, take up our crosses daily to follow Christ?  Have a grace-filled Lent!

*Fr. Tersoo Gwaza, SJ is the Director of Vocations for the ANW Province and is based in Lagos, Nigeria.

 

 

 

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