Contemplative Word for the month

“Deny yourself … and follow me”

(Matthew 16.24)

During April the church takes us again through the pivotal events of our faith, the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  Each year we’re invited to enter a little more deeply into the mystery of our Good Friday and Easter faith.  Jesus had already told his friends, “I am the way” (John 14.6). The way he showed them was a pattern of dying in order to live more fully.  In our post-communion prayer, we say “Dying and living he declared your love, gave us grace, and opened the gate of glory.”

What does it mean to die in order to live, and so to follow the way of Jesus?  

“Deny yourself” … Jesus invites us his followers to deny and reject everything within ourselves that’s negative, dead or life destroying, all our devious ego strategies that feed “the devices and desires of our own hearts.”    His teaching about the vine (John 15.1-11) describes how the vinedresser (God the Father) prunes each branch (us) of the vine (Jesus), so that more fruit may be borne.  Our lives shouldn’t be all over the place: we are being restrained, and trained, in order that we may grow more in God’s, not our own, strength.

“Follow me” … Jesus, the most fully alive person who ever lived, in his way of living, drew deeply and constantly on the dynamic life and grace of the Father.  He invites us to do the same.  “I am the vine and you are the branches.  Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty” (John 15.5). 

But it doesn’t happen all that easily!  A Friar at Clare Priory in Suffolk writes: -

“The awareness of our union with the life-giving vine, the unknown sweetness that we find in our inmost heart, is not achieved without a struggle.  It is a struggle between our surface self, the person on show to the world, and our deeper self.  It is what Paul describes to the Christians in Rome as the split between our spiritual and our unspiritual self.  It is the conflict between the ego and what he calls ‘my true self’

In this struggle to discard the shell that life has created, or we have created, grace is working gently if painfully, inviting our true self to emerge into fullness of life.  Our hours of prayer open us up to our deeper self.  In that stillness we find the true self, created in God’s image.  Our priorities are changing…”

God is enabling us to become Easter people, bringing new life to God’s world!

“Deny yourself … and follow me”