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This injunction seems harsh; and one may think He is imposing a burden on us. His commands are not difficult, since He helps to effect what He commands. And he who loves God will find all His commands very light.

We know this to be true even in earthly, wanton or wicked love, where man will undergo all difficulties to attain their mad desires.

Therefore, dearly beloved, direct all your attention on the choice of what you should love. Both the love of the world and the love of God entails difficulties; but the former has eternal damnation as its end while the latter has eternal happiness as its reward.

Yet when we see man undergo difficulties for an earthly crown, we applaud him; when a young man undergoes difficulties for the kingdom of God, we pity him.

If we were surrounded by mere lovers of the world, we would despair of eternal life. But, fortunately, there are still souls patiently and even willingly accepting many labors for love of Christ. . .and they are such a refreshing sight.

Just as a man is lost through loving himself, so he is found by denying himself. Love of self was the ruin of the first man; he loved in the wrong order. He should have loved God first; by so doing, he would have loved himself in the right way. . . by denying himself.

Denying oneself is the first step towards love of God. When we take the first step, we will meet resistance, we will be opposed, mocked and even persecuted, not only by unbelievers but also, by people who to all appearances belong to the Church but in reality are excluded from it by their wickedness but bear patiently with them.

And "follow Me" to heaven", i.e. after you have denied yourselves and taken up your crosses.

Let me warn anyone bent on following Christ to listen to St. Paul: "One who claims to abide in Christ ought to walk as He walked." And Christ walked with all humility. To begin with, therefore, let us be humble; let us always be content as long as we have food and clothing. If we seek more than this, we will fall into temptations.

St. Caesarius of Arles, Sermo 159





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