Self-Denial, the Test of Religious Earnestness, Part 2
by Fr. Juan Vélez
Jesus bids us to take up our cross daily. We must careful, however, of the danger of self-deception by doing things for our own praise. Self-denial in daily life is the chief duty and test of whether we are living as Christ’s disciples and are on our way to heaven.
Three Minute Reflection
The world bids us to enjoy life as much as possible – Jesus bids us to take up our cross daily. The world promises pleasure here on earth – Jesus promises a lasting happiness that only begins in part here on earth. To this end our Lord asks us to live daily self-denial.
In the sermon Self-Denial, the Test of Religious Earnestness Blessed Newman warns us, however, not to act for worldly motives, namely, for the praise of others. According to him, to make a general profession of religion for the sake of being respected, is wrong,
“For two reasons, first, because you are in danger of doing right from motives of this world; next, because you may, perchance, be cheated of the Truth, by some ingenuity which the world puts, like counterfeit coin, in the place of the Truth.”
He explains that such persons face the danger of self-deception.
“Good behaviour is, in their case, not only a matter of duty, but of interest. If they obey God, they gain praise from men as well as from Him.”
We know that only God will judge us and that we must strive to the very end of our lives to live in his grace; yet we still need to test ourselves to see that we are going in the right direction.
Even St. Paul was not assured of his real state in life. He wrote “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” [1 Cor. ix. 27.] Without impatience and presumption we must strive with a subdued hope for God’s forgiveness and to live as his children.
The first Christians were tested by the very profession of their faith for which they suffered persecution and death. Of their suffering St. Paul wrote: “Tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience and experience hope.” [Rom. v. 3, 4.] “Henceforth let no man trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus” [Gal. vi. 17.]
But in our age, too, Christian obedience has the same character, and it is shown by self-denial. Jesus tells us, “Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” [Mark viii. 34.]
Self-denial in daily life is the chief duty and test of whether we are living as Christ’s disciples and are on our way to heaven.
In what way do we fulfill Christ’s commands? In Newman’s words can we say that we “are really and truly awake, alive, living in the day, on our road heavenwards?”