May 21

Just as the blessings promised by God are unutterably great, so their acquisition requires much hardship and toil undertaken with hope and faith. This is clear from Christ’s words: ‘If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me’ (Matthew 16:24); and: ‘He who does not hate father and mother, brothers and sisters, wife and children, and even his own soul, cannot be a disciple of Mine’ (Luke 14:26). Most people are so lacking in intelligence as to want to attain the great and inconceivable blessing of the kingdom of God, and to inherit eternal life and reign forever with Christ, while living according to their own desires–or rather, according to him who sows within them these clearly noxious vanities.

Those who reach the goal without falling do so through hating themselves and all worldly desires, distractions, pleasures and preoccupations, for this is what ‘denying oneself’ amounts to. Hence everyone expels himself from the kingdom by his own choice, through not embracing suffering and denying himself for the sake of the truth, but wanting to enjoy something of this world in addition to that divine longing, and not surrendering the whole inclination of his will to God.

~St Makarios of Egypt

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