Leaving self behind

Daily Reading for March 8 • The Second Sunday in Lent

These are the words of Jesus taken from St Mark’s Gospel: ‘Anyone who wishes to be a follower of mine must leave self behind; he must take up his cross and come with me.’ Now we meditate to do just that: to obey that absolutely fundamental call Jesus makes, which is the basis of all our Christian faith, to leave self behind in order that we can indeed journey with Christ in His return to the Father. . . .

In our own day we have perhaps lost our understanding of what it really means to renounce self. Self-renunciation is not an experience with which our contemporaries are familiar or which they even understand very clearly, mainly because the tendency of our society is to emphasize the importance of self-promotion, self-preservation, self-projection. The materialism of our consumer society puts ‘What I want’ at the centre of our life, and it renders ‘the other’ merely an object which we see in terms of our own pleasure or advantage. But the other is only really Other if approached with reverence for itself and in itself. We must learn to pay complete attention to it and not to its effect upon us. If we begin to objectify the other then its reality, its uniqueness, and essential value escape us and it becomes not the other, but a projection of ourselves. . . .

We can only turn to the Other, we can only make this movement of self, if we leave self behind, that is, if we take our consciousness away from its involvement with me and direct it on the thou. Self-obsession is the means of restricting and limiting the self. Self-renunciation, on the other hand, is the means of liberating the self for its real purpose which is loving the Other.

From “Leaving Self Behind” by John Main, quoted in Word into Silence by John Main OSB (Paulist Press, 1981).

Past Posts