If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me

Ed was in the habit of spending chunks of his weekends on the golf course.   That often meant ducking out early from Mass and missing out on time with his wife and kids.   One weekend, however, Ed and his wife attended a parish retreat.   As Ed prayed before the tabernacle, he had an overwhelming sense of God’s love.   Ed knew he needed to draw closer to God.   That meant making some changes, starting with less golf and more time with the Lord and his family.

Ed’s story is a perfect illustration of Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel(Luke 9:23):   “He must deny himself” (Luke 9:23).   Those words might give the impression that following Jesus means living a joyless, austere existence.   But God loves you too much to want you to be miserable all the time.   Most likely, he is asking you to deny something that’s keeping you from him.   Perhaps a hobby or pastime has taken over too much free time.   Maybe you need to cut back on your time binge-watching TV or surfing the Internet.   Maybe you are too focused on your career, and your prayer life suffers.

What’s getting in your way?   Ask the Lord to show you in prayer.   He might surprise you.   If you cringe at the thought of denying yourself something you enjoy, don’t worry.   If it’s nothing sinful, Jesus is probably not asking you to give it up completely, only to put it in its proper place.

Ed’s decision to cut back on golf came after a dramatic experience of God, so it was only natural that he would pursue his faith with more enthusiasm.   Who wouldn’t want to spend more time with God after an experience like that?   But in today’s Gospel, Jesus says that it works both ways.   Rather than always waiting for God to do something, we could take some of the initiative ourselves.   If we want to get closer to him, we should check to see if there’s something blocking us.   If we can put that aside, it will be easier to feel his love.

Remember, you can never outdo God in generosity.   Whatever you give up for him, he will give you so much more in return.

Word Among Us