Brothers, the words of our Lord in Matthew 16:24 remind us of the necessary steps to follow Jesus – denying ourselves and taking up our cross. But what does it truly mean to deny ourselves? Is it simply changing our name and renouncing our identity? No, it goes much deeper than that.
Denying ourselves means saying “no” to our wants, desires, and passions. It means having the strength to resist temptations, whether they are licit or not. By disciplining our desires, we prevent them from overpowering our reason and leading us astray. Sin distorts the goods of creation into the evils of sin, and by staying in control of our desires through discipline and denial, we prevent them from ruling over us.
Let us take the example of David. Instead of joining his servants and all of Israel in battle against the Ammonites, David chose to stay in Jerusalem. While lounging around, he saw a beautiful woman bathing and his passions were aroused. Without hesitation, he took her, despite knowing she was married to Uriah. By indulging his body and neglecting his responsibilities, David paved the way for his explicit sin.
The consequences of David’s actions were severe. He attempted to cover up his adultery through deceit and murder. God’s displeasure had lifelong repercussions not only for David but also for his family. The sword never departed from David’s house, and his family suffered from internal strife, rebellion, and tragedy.
As men, especially fathers, we were made to rule. We have been given a share in God’s dominion over creation, but this authority can be undone if we do not first have dominion within ourselves. We must say “no” to sin before it gains a foothold, through fasting and penance. And if sin already has a hold on us, we must deny ourselves in other areas as well.
Like David, we can easily choose to stay home from the battle. But we know the consequences. Now is the time for us to engage, to go out with Jesus into the desert and confront our enemy. Yes, the enemy is the devil, but we must also recognize that we are our own enemy. Self-denial is not a small matter; it is the means to enter the battle and emerge victorious.
So, young men, I urge you not to stay home from the battle. Embrace self-denial, discipline your desires, and take up your cross to follow Jesus. Only then can we truly fulfill our purpose as men and experience the abundant life that God has in store for us.