Deny yourself

Friends in the Lord, we begin Lent this week, and Mother Church gives us today this gospel, in which Our Savior says: ‘If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’
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Here, he is speaking to each of us. What does it mean to ‘deny ourself.’ It means first of all, that we do God’s will, not our own. Frequently, doing what we know God wants of us is harder than what WE want. To indulge in the gossip is fun, but to do God’s will is not so easy. To stare at the pretty girl is easy, to turn the eyes away and be pure is not as easy. To deny ourself, means to choose the good path instead of the easy path.
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To deny ourself also means to deny ourself some legitimate things from time to time. St. Alphonsus says that if we never deny ourself legitimate things, we will not have the strength to turn away from evil things. The children in the school are all giving up something for lent, legitimate things. We all should do some mortification this Lent, this is also to deny ourself.
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‘You must deny yourself and take up your cross.’ What is ‘to take up your cross?’ When Jesus was only a boy, about 11, he would have heard about a Jew who was near by Nazareth who led a rebellion against the Romans; he had raided the royal armory at Sepphoris which was only 4 miles from Nazareth. The Romans were angry; so Sepphoris was burned to the ground, and two thousand rebels were crucified on crosses which were set in lines along the roadside for all to see. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph would have known about that.
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To take up our cross means to be prepared to endure even such things as that, but for loyalty to Christ and his Church. But we won’t be able to do any great thing for the Lord, unless we practice in the little things, and that means denying ourself.

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