Denying and Fulfilling
One of the great paradoxes Christian faith teaches is that it is only by denying ourselves that we truly find ourselves. Nowhere is this truth seen in sharper relief than in the events of Palm Sunday and Holy Week.
The quintessential example of denying self is Jesus’ journey through acclamation, then condemnation, judgement and crucifixion shows our Lord denying Himself so that He can serve us and restore us to the Father. Nowhere does He complain that His rights are being trampled. Never does he fight back. He never makes it about Himself. It is about obedience to the Father and meeting our need.
Paul wrote of this eloquently in his letter to the Philippians. Pointing to Jesus’ example, he wrote: “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself. . .” (Philippians 2:5-7a, click here for the full passage)
We see Jesus revealed most completely precisely when He denies Himself most completely. That is counter to everything we have come to believe. We are so concerned with self-expression and defining our own individuality, that it is nearly impossible for us to believe that emptying ourselves in order to be filled by God is actually the road to fulfillment.
Jesus emptied Himself not in a prayer closet or a Bible study, but in action. He took the steps, He walked the walk. This Holy Week, perhaps you might take some new steps. Serve in some new and challenging way. Are you estranged from a family member, neighbor or work colleague? Set your pride aside and reach out in a new way, even if you are the one who was wronged (remember Jesus’ example!).
Emptying yourself? Don’t just dwell on it in your head. Take a step. A step out. A step away from yourself. You may find yourself in a new way, but, more importantly, you will find God in a new way!
This column appeared in the April 5, 2020 edition of St. John’s eNews. Click here for the complete issue.
If you are reading this at a different time, you may click here for the current eNews.