Looking at today’s readings, a particular theme resonates, from the first reading to the Gospel. This is a theme that is so essential to our Christian life, and so fundamental that it is indispensable. Unfortunately, many today look on it as unchristian, following the Gospel of men instead of the Gospel of Christ, corrupted in thought and deed by the hedonistic mentality and philosophy of today’s world. Speaking of hedonism, it is no little wonder that St. Paul, the apostle we would be hearing from first today, in his second letter to Timothy in the 4th chapter, and in the 3rd verse, warned Timothy, that a time is coming when people would no longer endure sound doctrine, but would surround themselves with false teachers to please their itching ears. (cf 2 Tim. 4:3). We, today, contrary to what our forebears in the faith; the holy ones of God, lived and practiced in their relationship with God and in their journey of Sanctification by the Spirit unto perfection through the merits of the finished work of Christ accomplished in his crucifixion, suffering and death of the cross, we now do not consider this particular element of our faith life necessary, sometimes we adopt a minimalist perspective and philosophy in not wanting to do ‘so much’, especially one that would cost us our comfort, and so we sink into inner lukewarmness and tepidity. That is why it then seems as though Christianity has lost it’s flavor, it’s sweetness of old.
What else do I speak of but Mortification, Self-denial and Suffering, which are three things we have forgotten as being essential for the Kingdom of God. In other not to waste so much of your time, the first reading for today, from 2 Cor. 4:6-17 is very much related to what St. Paul speaks to the Romans about in Romans 8, which we discussed in my previous post CHRIST PAID IT ALL! BUT THERE’S SOMETHING LEFT!!
St. Paul here is trying to tell us the importance of the afflictions that come our way in our struggle, in our journey with God, as he says in verse 17, ‘for this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison’. The theology of how and why this is so is what he tells us from the beginning of the chapter. Yes, we should remember that left alone we are nothing, we are earthen (verse 6), and so we cannot do anything and nothing we do of ourselves can profit us eternally, but something has happened to us, that has made us transcend from being just earthen, to being ‘earthen vessels‘. Because now we carry something in us, not something this time, but someone, God, ‘who has shone in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ’. (verse 6). And this he has done precisely in the manner in which according to Genesis 1, he created the world, first by bringing light out of darkness, whereas we become new creations for God brings out from the darkness of our eartheness, light which is himself.
This, God has been able to do through the gift of the death of Jesus, such that if this miracle, this marvel were to take effect in our souls, we must ‘always carry in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies’.(verse 10). And so to show the constancy of this, he continues to say in verse 11, that ‘while we live we are always being given up to death, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh’. That s precisely the essence of Mortification, that is why we constantly put to death the deeds of the flesh and we always carry in our bodies the death of Jesus, and we always give ourselves up to death every day, because in doing so, we live, and we radiate the life of Christ to everyone around us.
Jesus himself then speaks to us directly in today’s gospel from Matthew 16:24-27, that ‘if any man would come after me, let him deny himself
and take up his cross and follow me’ and that those who lose their lives for hs sake will find it. Brothers and Sisters, that is the essence of Mortification and Self denial, that is the advantage we have as Christians, that we can offer up the sufferings and disappointments that come our way daily, for our salvation, that we can convert in some way, a disappointment into a blessing, sadness into Joy and death into life. Is that not the mission of Jesus? to bring life to dead souls? So, we in being Christs to others, and to the world would then with the light of grace infused into our souls, bring Joy to the world through Mortification, Self-denial and suffering, and thus show this suffering world, the path to true happiness in Christ. Peace be with
From your friend and brother: Chibuzor F, Ogamba