When a number of affluent folks visited the monastery
they were shocked by the harsh penances these monks practised.
Little food, no luxuries, sleep next to none.
And they told them: “why are you such enemies of your bodies?
Did not God make the body also?”
The Abba, a wise man, replied:
“Oh no! Despite appearances, we love our bodies very much.
This is why we do not allow it to become soppy
but we prepare it for every good deed.
We keep it always unblemished and fresh for the battles in life
and we shall enjoy it even more at the resurrection from the dead.”
Men who understood what Jesus Christ, the Master, told us:
“If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself,
take up his cross
and follow me.”
Words that do not sound well in our ears.
We live in a society where the deity of comfort
takes up all our energies and dreams.
We are ready to sacrifice even having children
to this god-comfort.
We live in a world where what controls our minds
is what we can buy to have more luxury,
how much we can save,
how we can be more comfortable,
how we can be more successful.
We have been educated how to do away with pain!
And so we live like mad escaping what we ca not escape from!
Jesus, as usual, thinks otherwise.
He claims that the way to be miserable is to satisfy every whim that comes to our mind.
And the way to blessedness is to deny….
Deny your body, He says,
meaning do not give it too much attention
consider it alien,
loose all ties you have with it
do not consider it so important.
Our body always demands to be pampered, treated well,
it makes us do what it wants…
Jesus seems to imply that we need to coach our body.
By not giving it all it wants.
On the contrary, if it needs a beating, do it.
If it needs a cleansing, do not hesitate to fast.
This way it learns to obey you!
St Francis used to call his body ‘donkey’!
Denying your mind means understanding
that in life there are many things that go beyond
these few centimetres of our brain.
God is not our servant
who comes to explain to us everything from ‘a’ to ‘z’.
Our mind is small. His is big.
He is much more reasonable than we are.
And if He takes something away from us, He does it in order to give us something better.
The Rabbis say that God took away a rib from Adam
and gave him something more beautiful: Eve!
God knows what he is doing.
Denying your heart means not allowing your affections to lead you,
it means detesting the sick bonds many times we have with people.
It means keeping an affective distance from them.
Comfort and sentimentalism
do not strengthen the muscles of the heart,
rather they soften and weaken them.
It’s true, who wants to save his life, must lose it.
We lose our life for so many stupid things!
It is good for us and for those we love
if we start losing our life for Him.
This way we save it for eternity.
“Do not be chary of correcting a child,
a stroke of the cane is not likely to kill him.
A stroke of the cane
and you save him from Sheol.
My son, if your heart is wise,
then my own heart is glad.
Do not let your heart be envious of sinners,
but be steady every day in the fear of Yahweh.
Listen, my son, and learn to be wise,
and guide you heart in the way…
Do not be one of those forever tippling wine.
A harlot is a deep pit,
a narrow well, an adulteress.”
(Proverbs 23, 13-27)
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.