“Not my will but yours be done”

The day after Ash Wednesday I was at a Vocations fair with 700 Middle School students.  During the day each student was given a question to ask one of the religious men or women present.  There were only 5 questions in circulation and I was repeatedly asked the same one, “Which of the 3 vows is most difficult for you – poverty, chastity or obedience – and why?”  Initially I thought, “Wow! Who came up with this question?” followed by, “How do I bare my soul to this 12 year old in a way that applies to his or her own life”, I prayed “Come Holy Spirit”…

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Mt 16:24-25)

Regardless of where we are in the spiritual life, Jesus’ words to us in this scripture passage are likely to strike us as daunting, awe-inspiring or anywhere in between.  Hearing His words our hearts are stirred with desires and questions.  I want to “follow You”, I want to find LIFE, but How?

Jesus answers the question “How?” for all of us.  In order to follow Him, in order to find Life we must first deny ourselves and secondly we must take up our cross.

For religious, this scripture is answered by the vow of obedience, denying him or herself, continually choosing God’s will over their own.  The soon to be canonized JP II wrote in a letter on the Essential Elements of religious life, “The vows themselves are specific: three ways of pledging oneself to live as Christ lived…Each emphasizes a relation to Jesus, consecrated and sent.” For obedience he says, “He came to do the will of the Father who sent Him, and He did it steadily, learning obedience through suffering and becoming a cause of salvation for all who obey.” (EE #15)

During Holy week we entered into the mystery of our salvation that Christ “emptied himself…and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” (Phil 2:8) JPII adds in another document,Redemptionis Donum that the vow of obedience is taken in imitation of Christ’s obedience “unto death”.  He goes on, “precisely by means of the vow of obedience Religious decide tobe transformed into the likeness of Christ, who “redeemed humanity and made it holy by his obedience.” (RD #13)

Admittedly we all find it difficult to deny ourselves.  Hopefully during Lent our eyes have been opened a little to our own self-indulgent tendencies.  The transformation we all desire comes about through self-denial, when we choose another over ourselves – when we choose Him over ourselves.  “Denying ourselves” is an invitation, an invitation to step out of our self absorption into a relationship.  This relationship is what our hearts long for; it is a relationship of love with Him who is Love, with the One who offers us Life.  When we enter this relationship we realize the “cross” we must “take up” isn’t an object.  It is a deepening of the relationship, an intimacy, a certain closeness with Christ Himself.

As we live this Easter Joy, let us contemplate the words that led to our salvation, “Father, if it is your will, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.”  May our minds and hearts be transformed into His, may we receive the grace to say in our own lives “Not my will but yours be done.”