Then Jesus called the crowd to Him along with His disciples and said, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the Gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” -Mark 8:34-37
A problem I have seen in our secular, modernist, twisted society is a lack of selflessness, which is the quality of unselfish concern for the welfare of others. The society around us revolves around the self: appearance, money, pleasure, and our own gratification. Think about it for a few moments. Our society feeds off of the consumer and the mighty dollar. It drives into the minds of men and women to aim for certain physical standards. It pushes you to have all the money you can and to spend it however you like, wherever you like. It is a society that says “If it feels good, do it”. Our society doesn’t want us to feel pain, but rather to cover it up so we can keep living on in the moment, so long as we are happy and smiling and laughing and surrounded by people that think the same way we do. If there is something that stands in the way of our own happiness, then tear it down or move on to something or someone else to satisfy us. As long as you are happy, then all is right with the world.
Or is it?
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, a woman I’m sure we all have known during our lifetimes, once said “If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are.” She was a woman who denied herself for the sake of spreading love to those who desperately needed it most. Her impact was huge, and not because she sought it, but rather people noticed that she was doing something different, and for the greatest good. She went to a place ridden with disease, with fear, and with so much sorrow, and she sought to bring love to them. This love was Jesus Christ.
She diagnosed the problem in our culture as a disease:
“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”
Seeing the suffering in the world brought Bl.Mother Teresa to tears. The lack of love in our culture summed up her entire reason to seek to bring people Christ, so that they may be fed spiritually, so that they may know they are loved.
Being selfless points to loving unconditionally. It is being able to see past ourselves, and pour out ourselves for others. This pouring out of love can be seen in Christ’s love for us. His passion on the cross, with his arms spread wide, his knees broken, his shoulder’s flesh torn from the weight of his cross, and the thorns that pierced his head, show just how he looked past all the pain so that he could die for our sake.
Mary gave her entire body and soul to the will of God, too. What selfless love for her to give her great “Fiat” to God! She simply replied ” I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to your will.” Is this the selfless love that we show on a day to day basis? Do we deny ourselves to do the will of God before our own? Our will is imperfect, because we are imperfect. Mary, however, was without sin. She is perfect. Her Yes was perfect.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. –Romans 12:2
Society is confused with idea that being selfless can make us weak, can make us a victim, and means that we are unable to be happy. The selfless attitude that society portrays is a give-and-take kind of attitude,w here if you do something out of your way for someone, eventually you’ll get something back too. So when people do go out of their way and other people don’t respond by giving back to what they were given to them, it leads to a “woe is me” attitude. How much more lovely it is to simply give, and never expect anything in return, and be happy with that. You can’t be disappointed because you never expected anything back, and you are happy because you made someone else’s day. There is joy in seeing someone happy or healing. If done with Christ in our hearts, we can not take all the credit, of course. The sacrifices we make for other people are offered up to Christ, and it is in that offering that there is healing.
I believe that it may be that sometimes we may be afraid to pour out love. There is a fear in denying ourselves and risking being hurt for the sake of loving God and other people and in turn denying ourselves the feeling of being comfortable. There is a fear in being selfless because there is a fear that we in turn will be forgotten by others and that there will be no one to love us in return. This is a misunderstanding. God will always love us. Contrary to popular belief, the love of God is the only love that we truly need. It is His love that, in fact, keeps us alive at this very moment.
Our world will try and push us to make ourselves happy by making ourselves the prime focus. It is a completely selfish world that wants us to give in to our wants. Vanity, pride, lust, greed, and envy are the traps. These things are deadly. They lead us away from God. We should not be the prime focus in our lives. We can’t truly make ourselves happy with materialism or individualism. It will always lead us in a circle where we seek to have more pleasure in things that are temporary. It will always leave us hungry. It is is not the bread that will satisfy us. Why would we give in to temporary pleasures when we could live for the joys of eternity with God?
Love in Christ is the only bread that will give us life. In order to love fully, we must be selfless. We must do things for the good of other people, and of ALL people at every stage of life. We must deny ourselves and seek to love Christ by loving others. It may mean that we don’t get what we want for ourselves. It may mean that we have to suffer. It may very well mean that we will never have all the material things or achieve every temporary goal or be agreed with by all people. The important thing we must remember is seeking to do Gods will as best we can and no less. Christs ask us to deny ourselves and follow him. He calls us to be selfless.
As always, I leave you all with a quote. This one by St. Marcarius of Optina.
Having recognized the truly useless vanity of the world, you should flee from it and seek for yourself a way to fulfill the will of God. But as long as we serve the world, we do not see the darkness of the passions, darkening our thoughts. Being in such a state of blindness, we do not care that by pleasing the world we become violators of the Divine Commandments, and we think by making a few minor corrections we will become true Christians; but in this way, we greatly deceive ourselves, not studying the teachings of the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.