Jesus “called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me’ “ (NRSV, Mark 8:34)

In our modern world one may enthusiastic about anything so long as it is not religion.  You can be as dedicated as you like to politics or football or gardening, but if you take religion seriously then you have a religious mania.  This suggestion of abnormality is put forward by those who accept politics or sport or hobbies as important, but who refuse to take God seriously because to do so would make him an unwelcome intruder on their personal life and liberty.

One practice, therefore, which is regarded as being eccentric, is that of self-denial which the season of Lent brings to our attention.  The world will tolerate, indeed commend, self-denial so long as God as such is kept out of it; so long as it is comparable with a New Year’s resolution or is directed towards the alleviation of human suffering.

Prev Next »