Dying and rising in Christ - Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > Dying and rising in Christ - Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

“Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.”

This truth lies at the heart of a being Christian. It is one of the most important teachings of Jesus and is foundational to becoming his disciple. The Lord returns to this teaching on many occasions – it is recorded six times in all four of the Gospels. Many of his other teachings – like the first shall be last, becoming like a little child, being a servant – are prefaced on this truth. One cannot be his disciple without embracing this teaching.

However, to many in our society today this idea would not only seem strange, but they would view it as diametrically opposed to everything they have come to believe about the way life should be lived. It stands as the opposite to everything they understand about themselves.

One could say that modern society has made a fundamental shift from an orientation to God and eternal truths to an absorption with the self and the pursuit of temporary satisfactions. We have shifted our focus from God to a preoccupation about ourselves. Now we – human beings – see ourselves as the centre of the universe.

This is no more evident than in the social media world. Through Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and other sites which dominate the daily lives of many people, especially the young, our society has become self-obsessed. Image is everything and the need to accumulate “likes” for my selfie has become a singular preoccupation.

The selfie generation is preoccupied with the image of ourselves that is portrayed to the world. The rise of the selfie is really nothing less than digital narcissism: it is all about me.

Mental health professionals identify many problems as having their root in people becoming self-absorbed. It can cause anxiety, depression and mood disorders. People experience feeling threatened, vulnerable and insecure. It leads to an inability to form healthy relationships, with a resultant social isolation and loneliness.

And the online world is a brutal place.

This teaching of the Lord is not just an ideal for Christian living, it is in fact essential for healthy human living. It contains a vital truth about the nature of human life. It teaches the path to healthy human growth and the way to genuine human flourishing. 

The truth about the human condition is that each person is not, and cannot become, self-sufficient. Human life cannot simply revolve around the self.

A person cannot fulfil themselves from within, on the basis of their inner resources. We are designed to go beyond our own inner world, to encounter people and embrace a path to virtue which require us to discipline our personal urges.

Growth towards human flourishing requires turning away from a focus on self.

Human maturity will be fostered not in feelings but in the mind and in the will. Sadly, our society has become driven by feelings. Attitudes, responses, decisions are based in how we feel about the matter.

For a person to grow soundly the mind and will must become the source for decision making. It will be truth that nourishes the mind and goodness that nurtures the will. Christian and human growth will be fostered when truth is sought and goodness pursued. Truth and goodness.

The truth about human life and the nature of the human person cannot be discovered without reference to God. We cannot know who we really are if we do not understand that we have been created and that we have an eternal destiny.

The decision to choose the good enables the will to guide the formation of conscience and hence Christian and human character. In this way the focus will move away from the pursuit of personal satisfaction, and a new orientation is given to the desire for virtue. The desire for virtue enables us to transcend the limits of ourselves.

St Thomas Aquinas taught that virtue enables a self-transcendence in which the pursuit of the good aligns a person to God’s natural law, and thus brings a person into harmony with God, themselves and the universe.

What the Lord teaches in the Gospel today is the path to human flourishing. Psychologists would confirm that when all we want is to find our own life then we will lose it. We will not find happiness. Quite the opposite. When we are prepared to lose our life then we will find it.

The Lord adds, “for my sake”. This is an important element to consider for it leads us into the Christian mystery. 
St Paul, in the second reading today, said that when we were baptised, we joined Christ in his death. We joined Christ in his death.

In the baptismal ceremony, prior to the actual baptism, the candidate is asked to make a renunciation of sin. Sin is always a choice for self over a choice of the good, and hence of God. Thus, a person who is about to be baptised declares their willingness to die to self.

We have to let go of self, so that Christ may rise in us. And this is what St Paul teaches when he says that just as Christ rose from the dead, “we, too, might live a new life”.

To be a Christian is to die to self that we might rise to a new life. This new life is life in Christ. This is what it means to be saved.

Today let us receive this teaching of Jesus as the path for each of us to life and salvation: “Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Sunday, June 28, 2020

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