Homily February 23th, 2023

Thursday After Ash Wednesday – March 7th, 2019 – Lk 9:22-25

Today’s Gospel is very appropriate as we start out Lenten journey, since this is the time for self-denial and taking up one’s cross. Although we’ve certainly heard this Gospel before, it’s good to consider once again the three things Jesus tells us to do: first, deny ourselves, second, take up our crosses daily, and thirdly, follow Him.  

Regarding the first, in his Long Rules, Saint Basil the Great writes that “self-denial involves the entire forgetfulness of the past and surrender of one’s will.” The Greek word for deny could also be translated as disown or repudiate; it’s a strong rejection. When a father disowns a son, it means that the child is utterly forgotten, cast aside, as it were, and becomes just like any other person. As Basil notes, self-denial means to forget the past: often times this means forgetting our achievements and whatever good things we’ve done, in the sense that all these things are really God’s work in me. I can’t take pride or complacency in them, as though somehow I had done enough for God. As we read elsewhere in Luke’s Gospel: “When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do’” (17:10). However, this forgetfulness can also mean casting off our sins, obviously and not only in the sense of not committing them, but also in not letting ourselves be bound to the memory of them. As Saint John Paul the Great proclaimed: “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures, we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His Son Jesus.”[1]  

Secondly, Christ tells us to take up our cross daily. Again, Basil says that “readiness to die for Christ, the mortification of one’s members on this earth, preparedness for every danger which might befall us on behalf of Christ’s name, detachment from this life—this it is to take up one’s cross.”[2] It’s worth recalling that the Romans considered crucifixion as the most horrid of deaths, and refused to impose it on their own citizens. In other words, it was reserved for foreigners, those who lived in Roman territories but weren’t Romans themselves. In the same way, too, the carrying of our cross comes to us who, although we live in this world, are not of it. We’re simply passing through, wayfarers on the way to our real homeland which is heaven. Every day, we need to be reminded of this, and so every day we must take up our crosses in the forms of the sufferings that come our way, the inconveniences and annoyances that pop up, and even the anxieties and frustrations that creep in.

In all of this, we aren’t carving out a new path or doing any sort of trailblazing; Christ Himself took the royal road of the Cross. If we deny ourselves and take up our crosses, it should be to follow Him, meaning, out of love for Him, because we strive to be like the One we love. 

Through the intercession of Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, let us ask for the grace to love Jesus Christ, and, out of love for Him, to deny ourselves, take up our crosses daily, and follow Him.

[1] Apostolic Visit to Toronto, Homily for WYD, 2002.

[2] Cited in the Catena Aurea, and also in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament, III, Luke, 156.



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