Reflection for March 2, 2017: Thursday after Ash Wednesday.

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Kowalski, Joan
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Jesus said to his disciples:|"The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected|by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,|and be killed and on the third day be raised."|Then he said to all,|"If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself|and take up his cross daily and follow me.|For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,|but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.|What profit is there for one to gain the whole world|yet lose or forfeit himself?"|Today's reflection focuses on the Gospel text found in Luke 9:22-25, outlined above. I'm struggling in writing today's reflection, and I don't know why. I think I'm struggling due to the nature of Jesus' directives, "if anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." This is not a Bible passage that is very easy to follow and fully comprehend. Especially when we come to the section "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it." And then I stop, and I think, am I willing to lose my life? While some people may state that they are willing to lose their life for Jesus, the actions they display are not reflective of someone who will sacrifice the very character of their humanness. Jesus, the Son of God, was our living, walking example on this earth of what encompasses complete sacrifice. If we are honest with ourselves, we can probably understand how difficult it is for us to accomplish this command of our Savior.|How can we lose our life and take up our cross daily to follow Jesus? For me, it begins with a change of attitude, which can be easier said than done. The attitude that is needed is one of dropping to my knees and crying out loud that I need God in every aspect of everything I ever do. While my morning prayers include me asking God to use me to be the light that others might see Him through my daily actions, this is where I get stuck, I get stuck in my own thoughts and it's at that moment I realize that I am not that light I want others to see. It's easier said than done!|In James 1:22, we read "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." To me, this is taking up the CROSS. Nothing changes or becomes important until it becomes specific. That's why when I read God's Word, I try to move it to what I need to do now; actually put it into motion. I believe God wants our beliefs to turn into behavior, a behavior that is most Christ like, which we can only accomplish with His Word. All scripture is inspired by God, as such, God uses his Words to prepare and equip all of us to do every good work. The good work is the work of God.|In the reality in which I live, this has required a complete change of my heart and focus. I believe God's plans for me include changing the attitudes toward and stigma of those who suffer from serious mental challenges. To be that person who candidly and with much passion speaks honestly about this topic required many hours of crying and begging God for a miracle. I didn't realize the miracle He was performing was my transformation into the person who I am today. I kicked, I screamed, and I yelled at God, but He quietly allowed me the opportunity to understand it wasn't others who needed to change, the change needed to occur within me.|My life has been not one I would have ever predicted to be the way it is. It is just as God wants it to be. What I can attest to is nothing can compare to the experiences which have been placed before me. I have learned patience, which before my journey with mental illness was virtually non-existent. I have learned unconditional love, one that fills my heart for those who suffer daily with mental afflictions. I have learned forgiveness, the type that allows me to forgive the hurtful words and actions I might experience and offer up a heart of compassion and empathy. I have learned hope, the kind of hope that brings joy to my heart when something miraculous occurs in my life, such as a warm and tender moment with my family.|The most important thing I have learned is that God does not disappoint. He is moving quietly in my life and in yours, waiting for us to acknowledge His presence and His power over all elements of our being.|I have learned that whoever loses his life for the sake of God will save it.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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