The disciples often argued about who was the greatest among them, and who would be the highest ranking officers, in His Kingdom. They were striving for a life of power over their problems and adversities, a kingdom where there was no lame, or blind or slave or poor. We naturally want the same of our saviour. Although we grasp the concept that it is not a worldly kingdom, we still seek the Kingdom to be manifest in our lives as one in which we have victory over our troubles, where there is healing of our diseases, where death does not affect us and where famine and pestilence do not affect us. We look for success in everything and demand special privileges as Christians. After all who would join a suffering community? Who would not want success and power? Did the Bible not promise this? Are we not meant to be healed and reconciled and restored and saved and set free?

Peter had just confessed Jesus as the Messiah the Son of God, the Anointed King of God’s people. But when Jesus spoke of his death, Peter could not accept that that was the way that victory would be won. He like the others, wanted Rome overthrown and a Jewish King on the Throne. At Calvary Jesus was crowned King, but not in the way that the Disciples had expected. At Calvary Jesus conquered death, not by avoiding it, but by enduring it, at Calvary Jesus love for the world conquered hatred, and every sin, by enduring the suffering  and the scorn, and the shame and the pain, and dying, to self and being raised to eternal life.

St Paul wrote “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live.” What does that mean to us?

This concept has been used and abused throughout the history of the world and dying to self has been expressed in many different ways. St Francis of Assisi, along with the Apostles, is the best guide to what this means, and how to live the true Christian life of imitating Christ. He acted on his belief by giving up all worldly possessions and living a life of poverty, chastity and love, and seeking to not just believe in what Jesus did, but to participate in doing it as well. Few have taken Jesus’ teaching as literally and few have achieved so much for the Kingdom.

However, even poverty and chastity and love have been abused and misunderstood in this modern world. It is the change of heart and perspective and ambition and action that is required, not simply the change of financial or social standing. St Paul teaches that as Christians we need to work, but that the money earned must not be just for ourselves, but to sustain the Christian community.  Many wealthy (in worldly terms)  Christians have done a great deal of good, feeding the poor, establishing shelters and missions and support programs, which they could never have done if they had abandoned their vocations in business. If worldly poverty and unemployment were the true way to pleasing God, we would be a very righteous nation. But it is not that sort of poverty that even St Francis embraced, it is a total devotion to Christ, it is a doing everything that God requires of us, that counts.

If we are to feed the poor, and give water to the thirsty, and educate the children and teach people the way of the cross, we will require earthly money. St Francis and his companions relied on the wealth of others to sustain their meagre livelihoods.  Each one of us is given gifts for the common good (1 Cor 12:17) are you using yours? Everything we have comes from God and of His own do we give him (APB 116:48)

This lent as we reduce our food intake, spend more time in scripture, give more, let us think about what we need to do to radically follow Jesus as the Apostles and St Francis did. In the words of St Francis, they have done what was there’s to do , now it is yours to do what is yours to do.

This Friday as you consider the way of the cross, consider what God is calling you to. There is a future ahead of you and there is one path filled with your own desires, and one filled with God’s plans for your life. Choose Life!

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body,                    I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)

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