11 February – Thursday after Ash Wednesday; Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes
Hi everyone! Let us welcome Nicholas Lee, our new addition to OXYGEN’s miraculously growing team of writers! Honestly, the bulk of us who have been writing for a few years now were a little concerned of the renewal of our ministry – some of us have embarked on new ministries, gotten married, needed to take a sabbatical, etc. We have been seeking out interested contributors and praying for God to provide, and the Holy Spirit to inspire hearts to come on board. Lo and behold! The Lord watches over His field and provides the sun and rain for the crops to grow. We praise the Lord – for His eye is ever on the sparrow.
In 1858 the immaculate Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubirous, near Lourdes in France, in the cavern called “de Massabielle.” Through this poor, fourteen-year-old girl, Mary calls on sinners to change their lives. She has inspired in the Church a great love of prayer and good works, especially in the service of the poor and the sick. See more articles at Our Lady of Lourdes (Wikipedia).
Moses said to the people: ‘See, today I set before you life and prosperity, death and disaster. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I enjoin on you today, if you love the Lord your God and follow his ways, if you keep his commandments, his laws, his customs, you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to make your own. But if your heart strays, if you refuse to listen, if you let yourself be drawn into worshipping other gods and serving them, I tell you today, you will most certainly perish; you will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today: I set before you life or death, blessing or curse. Choose life, then, so that you and your descendants may live, in the love of the Lord your God, obeying his voice, clinging to him; for in this your life consists, and on this depends your long stay in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob he would give them.’
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘The Son of Man is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.’
Then to all he said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, that man will save it. What gain, then, is it for a man to have won the whole world and to have lost or ruined his very self?’
What gain, then, is it for a man to have won the whole world and to have lost or ruined his very self?
Death. The common thread that joins both readings of today. While we will pass on from this earthly life to our eternal rest one day, we are called in this life to die to ourselves.
But what exactly is this dying to oneself? St Luke in the gospel uses the word ‘renounce’ (“let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me.”). Quite simply, dying to oneself is the act of denying our own desires, needs and sins. If only it were that simple.
And we are called to renounce ourselves ‘every day”’ Imagine trying to renounce ourselves every day and making the decision to live for the Lord. What a struggle it will be to deny ourselves every day in an effort to be a follower of Christ.
Taking up our crosses is another part of Christian life that we also struggle with. What are the crosses in our lives that we struggle to take up? Our sins, the people we can’t see eye to eye with , the tasks that we are uncomfortable doing, and many others. Again, renouncing ourselves is the way to take up our cross. Making the effort to speak to someone whom we have issues with, spending more time in prayer to keep away from sin, etc.
Taking up our crosses is really an act that challenges us to go beyond what we are comfortable with.
I once did my confession with a regular confessor. I had to confess a sin which was recurrent in my life. He revealed something which I had failed to see. I had taken the Sacrament of Reconciliation for granted because each time I committed the same sin, I would rush to the confessional, but each time there was no change in my life.
In our own human weakness, we are bound to fall, and at times over and over again. In my own life, I often make a decision to be a better witness to Christ, but the will sometimes fizzles out and I give in to sin. It can really be a struggle to walk in His ways every day.
But let us not be discouraged! Even the apostle Peter denied Jesus three times out of fear. As St Paul writes “…but he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Indeed, if we make the conscious decision to follow Christ each day, He gives us the grace to walk in His ways. His power is made visible in our weakness. I learnt that every time we want to do the will of God and walk in His ways, we have to let go of our will and allow God to take over. In other words, to surrender to Him and depend on His grace.
In this season of Lent, may we through prayer surrender more of our will to God. If we want to be a follower of Christ, let us die to ourselves and take up our crosses.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Lee)
Prayer: Lord Jesus, I desire to follow you and walk in Your ways. But often, I am weak and I give in to sin. Grace me to be dependent on You and allow Your grace and wisdom to guide me in my walk with You. Help me to acknowledge that without You, I can do nothing. In all things Lord, may You increase and I decrease. Amen.
Thanksgiving: Thank You dear Lord, for Your call to walk in Your ways. Thank You for holding my hand to walk in this pilgrimage where my final resting place is in You. Help me Lord to always do Your will and not mine.