12th Sunday in Ordinary Time
2016 4:00pm and 8:00am
Saint Margaret Parish, Bel
Readings: Zechariah 12:10-11; 13:1
So, what do you think of when Jesus says, “Deny yourself”?
In today’s gospel, Jesus is getting clear with the apostles about who he is, his identity. And he says that if we believe in him and want to follow him, we must “deny ourselves.”
When I hear these words, I usually think of giving up something – like desserts or wine in Lent, things like that. But, I think these words also have another meaning that may be even more difficult.
“Denying ourselves” because we believe in Jesus may mean saying no to certain attitudes or ways of thinking. This can be difficult but sometimes we need to do this because our ways do not square with the ways of Jesus.
In Relation to Orlando
I have been thinking about this in relation to the tragedy in Orlando last Sunday.
Believing in Jesus may call us to “deny ourselves” in some ways as a response to this tragedy. I am thinking of two ways.
Deny Self by Loving Our Enemies
First, we may need to deny ourselves by heeding Jesus’ challenging words, “Love your enemies.”
The mass shootings in Orlando have some roots and inspiration in ISIS. That ideology and the terrorism that flows from it are evil.
We have a responsibility to take appropriate action to protect ourselves and others and to stop this evil. At the same time, Jesus says, “Love your enemies.”
My read of this is we need to pray that they embrace ways that are peaceful and respectful of others. That may take a miracle, but we believe that prayer can do great things.
I also believe that we need to be careful not to stereotype all Muslims by the terrorists. Instead of that, respectfully and thoughtfully, we need to read and to listen to the Muslim experience of life and to who they are and what they believe.
And, in turn, respectfully and thoughtfully, we can share our experience of life and who we are and what we believe. Each of us, in the way we are able, needs to work at building bridges of understanding.
Loving our enemies in this way may require some self-denial. It may require that we abandon some of our feelings and attitudes and ways of thinking, but this may be part of the denial of self needed to follow Jesus.
Deny Self by Realizing Our Oneness
The other way that we may need to deny ourselves is by realizing our oneness with all people.
Saint Paul is so clear in our second reading. Regardless of differences in nationality or religion or gender, we are all one in Christ.
Jesus reveals our oneness as God’s sons and daughters. In contrast to that, the mass shootings in Orlando were directed at the LGBT community.
This is the same kind of hatred and prejudice that led to the holocaust in the 1940s. It still leads to the targeting of different groups in some countries today.
The truth is that when one group is targeted and hated, we are all subject to being targeted and hated. So, at this time especially, we need to realize our oneness with the LGBT community.
Again, we need to listen and understand their experience of life and who they are as persons. And, as Archbishop Lori said this week, we are a pluralistic society and we need to approach one another with Christian charity and an open heart.
This, like loving our enemies, may again call us to deny ourselves – to abandon some of our attitudes and maybe even behaviors. This may be part of the denial of self that is needed to follow Jesus.