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THE NEW WAY IN WHICH A CHRISTIAN SHOULD LIVE
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Thursday, after Ash Wednesday, February 11, 2016
Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Psalm 1, Luke 9:22-25


Scripture quotations are from the RSV unless otherwise noted.

 

"Whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it" (Luke 9:24).


If we are to be followers of Christ, we must lose our life for his sake; for only then will we save it. But if, on the contrary, we try to save our life on our own, without Christ, we will lose our life. Saving our life on our own, in our own way, without Christ, means living in a worldly way, living for the pleasures of the world and for our own enjoyment, without concern for God.


Trying to save our life means filling ourselves with worldly pleasures, the pleasures of fine dining, worldly movies, and other activities that make us forget God. Most people live this way and seem to be quite unaware of the harm that they are doing to themselves. They simply think that this is the way in which they should live and enjoy themselves.


So their life becomes an endless quest after more and more worldly pleasures and delights; and they struggle to make enough money in order to enjoy all that the world has to offer them for their amusement. They also hope to be able to provide their children with the same enjoyments and amusements. That, more or less, summarizes their life, their lifestyle, and their goals in life. Basically, they love their life in this world and are working hard to save it and enjoy it.


Unfortunately for them, though, Jesus says, "Whoever would save his life [in this worldly way] will lose it" (Luke 9:24). And they are, indeed, trying to save their life in a natural human way; and so they will lose their life before God, which is the only thing that really counts in life.


They have made a mistake. Their whole orientation is mistaken. They are headed in the wrong direction. The road they are on is the road to destruction. They have taken the wrong road. They have taken the wide, easy, and comfortable way of the many, which leads to destruction. They have not taken the narrow and difficult path of life, which only a few find (Matthew 7:13-14). Jesus said, "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many" (Matthew 7:13). Indeed, "he who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life" (John 12:25).


So what should we be doing? What is the correct orientation? The correct orientation is the exact opposite of this worldly way of living. The correct orientation is, "Whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it" (Luke 9:24). The correct way is, "He who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life" (John 12:25). The true way is, "The gate is narrow and the way is hard; that leads to life, and those who find it are few" (Matthew 7:14).


We are to lose our life in this world to save it. We are to lose our life for the sake of Christ to save it. We are to hate our life in this world to save it. Why? Because God made us for himself, not for ourselves. God, not ourselves, or our pleasures, or our enjoyments, is to be the center, goal, love, and focus of our life. He made us to live for him, not for ourselves and the maximizing of our own worldly pleasures. He made us for himself. The goal of our life should be our total dedication to him.


The way to do this is to die to ourselves, to hate our life in this world, to hate to live in a worldly way, to hate to live a worldly life, to hate to live for worldly pleasures. We should hate to divide ourselves in this way between God and mammon. We should hate to serve two masters, God and mammon (Matthew 6:24). We should hate to divide our heart with worldly pleasures. Rather, "if anyone desires to come after Me let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me" (Luke 9:23 NKJV).


To lose our life in this world for the sake of Christ is the reason why we practice self-denial. We deny ourselves, because we hate our life in this world for the love of Christ. "And he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life" (John 12:25). But "he who loves his life loses it" (John 12:25).


This is a whole new way of living, a whole new way of being in the world. This is the way a Christian should live. Someone justified and saved by Christ's death on the cross should live in this way. Unfortunately, however, most do not live this way; but Jesus nonetheless makes it clear that this is how he wants us to live. We are not to seek our delight in worldly things, but rather in the Lord and in his love.


If we don't follow this, we will find all the less delight in God, because our love will be dissipated and dispersed in many different directions by many different pleasures, loves, and worldly entertainments. This dissipation makes us less and less capable of experiencing the love of God in our heart. Our ability to actually experience God's love, peace, and heavenly joy in our heart decreases to the degree that we participate in worldly delights. And the ideal is to find all our delight in the Lord, and therefore to lose our life for his sake.


Whoever does this will find life. He will know what life truly is. True life is to live for God, to sacrifice our life for him, to renounce earthly joys in order to live for him alone with all the love of our heart, with an undivided heart in our love for him.


These, indeed, are the two ways that Jesus puts before us today. One way is to lose our life in this world for the love of Christ. The other way is to try to save our life in this world. Losing our life for Christ will bring us divine love and heavenly peace. Saving our life in this world will bring us emptiness and darkness. One way will unite us to God. The other way will alienate us from him. One way gives earthly rewards. The other way gives heavenly joys right now in this present life.


This new way of living sanctifies us little by little, progressively. Our sins are removed through our faith "apart from works (Romans 4:6) by Christ's death in reparation for them. What remains for us to do, once we are justified and forgiven by faith "apart from works" (Romans 4:6), is to assimilate this justification into our life and personality.


Our debt of punishment for our sins has already been paid by Christ on the cross. Only he could ever make reparation before God for our sins. We cannot do that. Nor are we asked to do that. That has already been done. It is finished. There is no more debt to be paid, no more reparation to be made before God. Christ paid all our debt, Christ made all our reparation before God for us on the cross. Our part now is not to make further the reparation - that has already been done by Christ, the only one capable of doing it. Our part now is not more reparation, but integration and assimilation into our selves and into our lifestyle of what Christ has already done for us.


Our sins are gone and fully forgiven. Now we need to really be what Christ has made us by his death, namely "new men," a new creation; and we do this by living in this completely new way, by losing our life in this world for the sake of Christ, by hating our life in this world to find our life and preserve it unto everlasting life. We truly become the "new men" that Christ has made us by living a simple life of prayer and fasting in the desert, far from the delights of the world, seeking all our delight in the Lord.

 

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