(I have read this meditation on the podcast above. I hope you enjoy it. Feedback welcome!)
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25
Jesus is blazingly honest about the cost of following him. It’s our
most brilliant, golden choice, though it does mean we can no
longer follow ourselves, and our self-indulgent or prideful desires. We
dance instead to his other-worldly, life-changing music, asking at each
transition point of our day or life, “Jesus, what is your assignment?
How do I do it your way?” And we accept the sacrifices necessary to
beautifully live the particular life God has given us, with its responsibilities.
and boredoms, to develop our unique gifts, and to fulfil our unique calling.
For me (descriptive, not prescriptive), shouldering my cross includes
eliminating sugar and starchy carbs (to lose excess weight!), not
watching TV (extreme!), endeavouring to keep my house and garden
organised and pretty enough, and using internet blockers to limit time
spent on social media or news sites. And, also, taming my anger and
outspokenness! And refusing to sing a song of worry, or linger in anger,
training myself to sing instead a song of trust, praise, and gratitude.
While following Jesus is meaningful, electric, and joyful, following
ourselves could entail ruining our health with addictive foods, caffeine,
overwork, or the siren-call of our phones. Following Jesus does not
mean relinquishing our goals and ambitions, but surrendering them
to Him. We do not own our work; God does. And so, we must repent
when we overwork, get too intense about success, or try to impress
others with it. For competitive cravings for success, fame, money,
or popularity wreck relationships, and mental, spiritual, and physical
health, and never satisfy, for the ladder of success has no end, and
climbing it means exhausting ourselves for nothing. We’re still restless.
You have made us for yourself, Oh Lord, and our hearts are restless
until they find their rest in you, St. Augustine wrote. If we do not try
to obey the Great Commandment: to love God, and Christ’s second
commandment: to love our neighbour as ourselves, we could, one day,
open the treasure box of our lives and find only ashes. Nothing!
C.S. Lewis writes, “Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day, submit with ever fiber of your being. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”
Following Jesus means discipline, and staggering rewards.
The restlessness-quenching streams of the living water
of the Spirit flowing from us. And Christ himself, living bread,
to help us feel alive inside, not dead. Besides, He occasionally
guides us to the one fish with a silver coin in its mouth,
or shoals of 153 fish when we’ve laboured fruitlessly for decades.
And, sometimes, he converts our water to wine, and multiplies
our efforts a thousand-fold, giving us, in his phrase,
all the things non-believers run after. Jesus, following you
is so worth it. Spirit, help us to do so. Amen.
If you’d like to listen my previous recorded meditations, they are here.
They are also availabe at Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts, Amazon Music or Audible. Please subscribe to read them the moment they appear, and I would be very grateful for reviews and ratings!!
And, of course, I would love you to read my memoir, Rosaries, Reading, Secrets: A Catholic Childhood in India in the UK, and in the US, here, well, and widely available, online, worldwide 🙂 Or my book of essays, Wandering Between Two Worlds, UK or US, or my children’s book Francesco, Artist of Florence in the UK, or the US.