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Dying to Grow

Updated on August 30, 2020

“The one misery of our life is self-will, the one secret of blessedness is the conquest over our own wills. The true source of all that frets and irritates, and wears away our lives, is not in external things, but in the resistance of our wills to the will of God.” ~ Alexander MacLaren

You duped me, O Lord.” These are the blunt opening words uttered by the prophet Jeremiah in today’s 1st Reading (Jer 20:7-9), wherein the weeping prophet partakes of a little bit of “divine venting ~ not necessarily a bad thing by the way Yet it’s his closing words that reflect the true sentiments of his soul; the depth of his wisdom too.

“I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.“ The truth was written on Jeremiah’s heart ~ ours too ~ and we’re reminded of that innate longing each and every one of us has to be in divine harmony with God. Today we are reminded too that Jesus never promised it would be easy to follow him... only that it would be worth it (1 Corinthians 2:9).

In today’s Gospel (Matthew 16:21-27), Saint Peter once again takes center stage, this after Jesus anointed him “the Rock“ upon which He would build his Church in last Sunday’s Gospel This week however Jesus rebukes Peter, going so far as to call him Satan, for being an obstacle to the fulfillment of Scriptural prophecy, Jesus’ very reason for entering the world by way of the spotless Virgin.

Jesus goes on to explain to his disciples that “whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” This teaching is a call to change. A call to growth. For many, growth and meaningful change is a frightening prospect. To some, it implies “losing something,” when in fact it’s quite the opposite. We must never forget, although at times we do, that Jesus as the Son of God could have at anytime called upon His Father to put an end to his torment, the constant rejection of His teachings, the scourging, the humiliation, the cross . . . His death. Had He done so however, He never would have freed us from sin and death; the doors of Paradise would indeed still be locked.

This is why we must embrace our crosses, never praying for a “cross-free” life (Spoiler Alert: ain’t happening anyway) and instead seek the divine grace we need to endure them, Those who repeatedly take that leap of faith know that God gives them the grace ~ each and every time ~ to not merely survive, but to thrive as we change and evolve through the cross. One need only turn to the man we memorialized yesterday, Saint John the Baptist

“He must increase . . . I must decrease.” (John 3:30). If Jesus’ cross can conquer death, what might our crosses accomplish?

Growth only happens through dying, a literal dying to self. For as C.S. Lewis once said, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, "Thy will be done." All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.“


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