Our natural response is that we would like to feast. We want to enjoy life and avoid any sufferings. Yet, Jesus tells us: “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him deny himself and take up his cross every day and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) We find it strange that God, who loves us so much, would want us to suffer by denying ourselves.
God is not opposed to our happiness. When God created us, he had our good and our happiness in mind. But because of original sin, there exists in us the seeds of evil which prevent us from reaching true happiness. Self-denial (or mortification) is the means to fight and remove these seeds.
The Church, our wise mother, encourages us to practice constant and generous mortification. We are asked to fight against our vices, sinful habits, and our self-centered tendencies. The real end of mortification is union with God. We struggle against our evil inclinations in order to subject them to God’s will. We die to ourselves in order to live the life of Christ, the life of God.
The Church has built into the liturgical year certain seasons, like Lent, obligatory days of fasting and abstinence. Very often, we are quick to complain and to find all kinds of excuses to be exempted from them. Yet how many of us undergo great sacrifices to remain fit or to look good? How many athletes make countless sacrifices to win a game? And we are quick to call these efforts good and worthwhile.
To practice self-denial, we do not have to always make great sacrifices. We can make little conquests, such as getting up early, drinking one glass of wine instead of two, keeping our room in order, switching TV channels from indecent scenes, controlling our sarcastic comments on the maids, limiting our time on Facebook or computer games, controlling our roving eyes on scantily-dressed women, being punctual, smiling, listening to others…
Ordinary life offers us innumerable opportunities to offer sacrifices to God. Our little renunciations can be united to Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross: to make up for our sins and the sins of others. Our small mortifications can purify our souls and draw us closer to God.
Let us not be afraid to choose the door of mortification instead of the door of comfort. The sacrifices that are asked of us are very little compared to the rewards that we will gain. With mortifications, we lose life but only to gain Life Himself… God.
(Reference: “What is Mortification Anyway?” by Father John Bartunek (Source: Catholic.net); “Why Mortification?” by Francisco Luna; “The Spiritual Life” by Adolphe Tanquerey)