“Self-denial means knowing only Christ, and no longer oneself. It means seeing only Christ, who goes ahead of us, and no longer the path that is too difficult for us. Self-denial is saying only: He goes ahead of us; hold fast to him.” ~
The Lenten season is one that is grudgingly embraced by so many Catholics. It is not enthusiastically embraced because of most people’s perception of self-denial. To many, if not most, self-denial is something negative. It means giving something up. It means refraining from doing something enjoyable. It means letting go of something that one would rather retain. But, that is not the reason for self-denial at all.
Self-denial is not about punishing ourselves. Self-denial is not about being less than who we are. Self-denial is designed to help us focus on all that is good and to promote choices that will lead us toward God rather than away from Him. Our self-denial, then, can make us stronger, not weaker. It can make us more confident, not less. It can make us more into the saint that we are called to be rather than the sinner bound by earthly desires.
Self-denial is a letting go of all that keeps us from God. The things that we let go are not helping us. They are not making us more holy. They are not guiding our steps to the Kingdom. Instead, they hold us back, they make us less than who we are called to be, and they cloud our mind and our vision. Self-denial, in that light, is nothing negative. Rather, it is lifesaving.
Think of it as someone who is drowning. If someone threw a brick to a drowning person, no one in his or her right mind would grab for the brick. The world throws us bricks. It tempts us with fame, fortune, prestige, sensuality, material gain, and the like. All those things weigh us down and have the potential to drag us under, drowning us in our sins.
Lent encourages us to identify those many things for what they are: hindrances and things that jeopardize our eternal souls. Denying ourselves of those hindrances is the wisest, healthiest thing that we could possibly do. Let go of sin and hold fast to the Lord. Let Him guide your way today.
FAITH ACTION: Make sure that the things that you say and do today are focused upon Christ and not yourself.