Self-Denial Is Love

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Memorial of Saint Clare, Virgin

Friday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Matthew 16:24-28 
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “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. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct. Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.” 
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, on this Friday, I recall the sacrifice made on Good Friday when my life was redeemed by your sacrifice on the Cross. I believe in the redemptive value of my sacrifice united to yours. Increase my faith, hope, and love. Please also grant me a deep, penetrating knowledge of the love you have for me so that I can better love you and those around me.
Encountering Christ:

  1. Self-DenialWhat is the purpose of giving up something legitimately good? I remember speaking with an affluent adolescent girl about sacrifice and she didn’t get the point. Why offer up something like sleeping without a pillow if I have five pillows and could sleep comfortably? Why not eat chocolate if I would enjoy it? Why deny myself during Lent or Advent or at some other time of the year? Because one’s conduct reveals the seriousness of one’s intention. By making little sacrifices like these, we are saying, “I love you, Lord.” And, as our Gospel tells us, “the Son of Man will… repay everyone according to his conduct.”
  2. The Story of Judith: In the Old Testament book of Judith, the Jewish town of Bethulia had been besieged by the Persians. Judith, inspired by the Holy Spirit, devised a plan to intervene and save her people. Before carrying out her plan, she spent time in prayer and fasting so that she could better commune with the Lord. She entrusted the success of the plan to him. Sacrifices like fasting open our heart more readily to obey the Lord’s will. 
  3. Sacrifice Is Redemptive: Jesus’s death on the Cross redeemed us from our sin and reconciled us to the Father. When we unite our fasting, almsgiving, or hidden acts of kindness to Jesus’s supreme act of love, they become spiritually powerful. In fact, all kinds of suffering offered to Jesus has merit. Jesus said to Sr. Faustina, “My daughter, I want to instruct you on how you are to rescue souls through sacrifice and prayer…You shall accept all sufferings with love. Do not be afflicted if your heart often experiences repugnance and dislike for sacrifice. All its power rests in the will, and so these contrary feelings, far from lowering the value of the sacrifice in my eyes, will enhance it. Know that your body and soul will often be in the midst of fire. Although you will not feel my presence on some occasions, I will always be with you. Do not fear; my grace will be with you… (Diary #1767).

Conversing with Christ: Lord, whether I suffer willingly or because of life circumstances, it’s a comfort to know that you receive my sufferings as a gift of love. Thank you for your supreme sacrifice and help me to trust that, when I offer my meager sufferings, they help to spread your Kingdom.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will offer a small sacrifice for an intention that is on my heart. 
For Further Reflection: Read and reflect on the book of Judith in the Old Testament.
Written by Renee Pomarico.

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