Dying to Self

Written by Sr. Rosemary Finnegan, O.P.
Readings from https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/081021.cfm

It is so frustrating to lose something and not be able to find, right?  Keys, glasses, the remote…sound familiar?  But, there’s a line of poetry, a little ditty, by Elizabeth Bishop called “One Art” that puts a little different twist on losing:

The art of losing isn’t very hard to master;
So many things seem filled with the intent
To be lost that their loss is no disaster.

She uses the phrase ‘the art of losing’ which is an appropriate description of what Jesus was referring to in our Gospel when he says:  ‘whoever loves his life loses it’.  Basically that means:

  • If the grain of wheat had not died to self, it would never produce fruit.
  • If we don’t die to our selfishness, we won’t inherit eternal life.
  • If we die a little to ourselves every time we serve others, that is meaningful for eternity.

In this sense, losing is an art, something we work at, practice, strive for…a quality we want to imitate.  Losing as an art has value and dignity.  We call it the Pascal Mystery…the belief that God brings new life out of suffering and death.  Jesus’ own sacrifice, death and resurrection opened paths of new life for us.

How do we achieve this art of losing?  The first reading tells us:  by being generous with our time, our good, our skills.

  • It’s difficult to take the time to talk to someone you run into when you’ve got so much to do. That’s dying to self.
  • It’s difficult to downsize and part with favorite things…that’s dying to self.
  • Serving our families with a cheerful, grateful heart when we’d rather be doing something else, that’s dying to self.

But we do these things generously and with a joyful spirit because God loves a cheerful giver.

St. Lawrence is our model of this dying to self.  As one of the first 7 deacons in the early church in Rome, and according to legend, he was ordered to surrender the treasures of the church to the persecutors of Rome.  St. Lawrence sold these treasures instead and gave the money to the poor.  When the emperor demanded that St. Lawrence bring him the treasures, he gathered the poor, the widows, the orphans and the sick together and presented them saying “these are the riches of the church”.  He was martyred for his faith by being burned on a gridiron. To the faithful, he became an example of a joyful, generous giver.

Today we ask ourselves:  What do each of us tend to hold on to, be they material things, attitudes, or ideas, which inhibit our following Jesus?

Where is Jesus calling each of us to “die”, calling us to the art of losing, so that we may really live?