“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
The essence of Jesus' message is other centeredness, a virtue that is both difficult and dangerous. It is difficult because it demands that we think of others first, even when they haven't earned our attention or concern, but Jesus is clear when he tells us that it is the sick who need a physician, not the healthy. The gospel demands patience, consistency and compassion, but when the other person ignores our outstretched hand or pushes us away, we can be easily discouraged.
Other centeredness is also dangerous. Too often wanting to please others or being afraid of disappointing them, we worry more about our goodness than the other's need. Anxious to "fix" the sick as a way of proving our fidelity to God, we ignore others in need, even members of our own family. Having a good "soul friend" can help us avoid this danger. All of us need someone to show us how to let go of our pride and will in order to let God do God's work.
The saints often struggled in this area. St. Francis, trying to imitate Christ in every way, punished his body so severely through fasting and work that he had to apologize to "brother ass" at the end of his life and ask God's pardon for abusing himself in the name of the Gospel. Practicing a prayer of listening each day can help us trust God more than our own disordered inclinations. Sitting quietly before God and asking for insight and generosity are the keys to leading an other centered life.
Today, pray for the gift of discernment to do God's will not your own.
When is it most difficult for you to be other centered?