Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Carrying Our Cross

1. When we have renounced ourselves in order to do the will of God in every detail, we must embrace our cross every day. We must carry it with resignation and love in the footsteps of Jesus. Each of us has his cross. It might be ill health or financial distress. It might be some person whom we feel to be intolerable and with whom we have to live. It might be humiliation or calumny. It might be some temptation which we find hard to fight and which is continually causing us to fall. It might be all these things together. Whatever it is, it is our cross.

To rebel would be to make things far worse. Our cross would only become heavier and more unbearable. Jesus tells us to embrace it as He did. He tells us to bow beneath its weight and follow Him. If we accept His invitation, at once our cross will seem lighter. A man who is in love does not feel fatigue. We must carry our cross out of love of God and in the hope of a heavenly reward. Then we can say with St. Francis de Sales: "Suffering passes, but the experience of having suffered for the love of God remains." We shall understand how true were Our Lord's words: "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest." (Mt. 11:28)

The cross which we accept from the hands of Jesus and out of love for Him is a sweet burden.

2. There is only one way to become holy and to win Heaven. This is the way of the Cross. "The Imitation of Christ" contains some moving thoughts on the subject of the royal way of the Cross. We shall summarise them here.

The words of Jesus seem hard to many: "Renounce yourself, take up your cross and follow Me." But it would be much harder to hear on the last day those terrible words: "Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire." Those who listen now and accept the message of the Cross need not be afraid of hearing this irrevocable sentence on that day. Why avoid the way of the Cross if it is the only road which leads to Heaven? In the Cross there is salvation; in the Cross there is life; in the Cross there is protection from our enemies. If we carry our cross with submission and love, we shall find peace of soul. If we intertwine our cross with the Cross of Jesus, we shall obtain energy of mind, joy of spirit and perfect holiness. If we die on the Cross with Jesus, we shall live with Him in eternal happiness. If we are His companions in suffering, we shall also be with Him one day in glory. (Rom. 6:8)

Everything depends on our dying on the Cross with Jesus. There is no other way to life and to true interior peace but the way of the holy cross and of daily mortification. (Imitation of Christ, Bk. II, Chapter 12)

3. We also read in The Imitation of Christ: "No man hath so heartfelt a sense of the Passion of the Christ as he whose lot it hath been to suffer like things." If you carry your cross willingly, it will lead you to your longed-for destination, where suffering ends and everlasting joy begins. If you carry it unwillingly, the weight will become unbearable, and you will have to carry it in any case. If you fling away the cross which you are carrying, immediately an even heavier one will be laid upon you. So be prepared to put up with whatever trials God sends you. Look upon them as wonderful consolations, because the sufferings of this life cannot be regarded as the measure of that glory which will be ours in Heaven ... (Rom. 8:18) We are fortunate if we deserve to suffer a little for the name of Jesus ... Only when we begin to die to ourselves can we begin to live in God ... Nothing is more acceptable to God and more helpful for us in this world than to suffer willingly for love of Christ. (Imitation of Christ, Bk. II, Chapter 12)