"When we accept the Kingdom of God into our hearts, we accept self-denial."
An elderly man lay dying in a hospital. He had suffered a heart attack and was heavily sedated for the excruciating pain. A nurse came in escorting a tired, anxious young man. “Your son is here,” she whispered to the old man. She had to repeat herself several times before he opened his eyes to look at the young man standing outside the oxygen tent.
The old man reached out his hand and the young man took it and held on tight. The nurse brought the young man a chair and for the entire night the young man sat holding the old man's hand, offering words of hope and encouragement. The dying man said nothing, he just held on to his son.
As morning came the old man passed away and the young man gently placed his now lifeless hand on the bed and went to notify the nurse. The nurse began to offer words of sympathy but the the young man stopped her.
“Who was that man?” he asked.
“I thought he was your father,” replied the nurse.
“No,” answered the young man, “I had never seen him before last night.”
“I don't understand,” said the nurse, “why didn't you say something?”
“Because I saw that he needed his son, and his son wasn't there. When I realized he was too sick to tell whether or not I was his son, I knew how much he needed me.”
As Christ prepares His disciples for His passion and death, His followers still do not quite grasp the reality of Jesus’ teachings. They are still thinking like men, motivated by their ambitions of position and power. They have not yet risen above earthly wisdom to the true wisdom that comes from God.
The apostles still expect an earthly kingdom, but the real nature of Christ’s kingdom is spiritual, not political or military. The victory of Christ is a victory over the hearts of His people. That is how we can say that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was a triumph.
When we accept the Kingdom of God into our hearts, we accept self-denial. We no longer do things according to our will; we give ourselves completely over to the will of God. This is the true battle Christ fought and died for. It is a battle between God’s eternal wisdom and the selfishness of our fallen human nature. The battlefield is the human heart and the prize is our immortal soul. Jesus endured the pain of that struggle and triumphed over it, winning our redemption.
To take part in that victory we must abandon our sense of self and commit fully to God. We must give up our selfish motivations and desires, and recognize that every good and perfect gift comes from above. Then we will see that all our gifts and abilities and accomplishments are given to us to be used in His service and for His greater glory.
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
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© Lawrence Klimecki
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Deacon Lawrence draws on ancient Christian tradition to create new contemporary art that seeks to connect the physical and the spiritual.. For more information on original art, prints and commissions, Please visit www.DeaconLawrence.org
Lawrence Klimecki, MSA, is a deacon in the Diocese of Sacramento. He is a public speaker, writer, and artist, reflecting on the intersection of art and faith