"To love the Cross means being able to put oneself out, gladly, for the Love of Christ, though it's hard-and because it's hard. You have enough experience to know that this is not a contradiction."- St. Josemaria Escriva from The Forge, 519.
I must admit that my past several posts have been heavier in their subject matter. Writing about Sun Tzu, leadership, and mysticism can be sexy as a root canal. I am not doing this because I am in a unpleasant mood or I am growing pessimistic. I am not pessimistic, I am eternally optimistic. I am also not writing about these matters because I want to take out my frustration by writing. Even though these motives might be understandable they are not the reason I am writing about these matters. The main reason for my writing on these subjects is that it is the season of Lent. During Lent I tend to get more contemplative and philosophical in my outlook. Forgive me for my heaviness, but think of it as well balanced meal getting your veggies first before you can move on to the steak. Now I am in my vegetable mood, but soon I will be in my full course steak mood! Maybe after Lent. Maybe sooner.
Yesterday I had a revelation that changed the way I viewed suffering. My day began like any other day except for the wonderful opportunity to attend daily mass. After mass the day was unspectacular, I ran a few errands, ate, wrote, spent some time with my wife and prepared to attend an Opus Dei Day of Recollection. I have been faithfully attending these days of recollections for the past three years. I am drawn to the spirituality of Opus Dei particularly the writings of St. Josemaria Escriva as is well evidenced by me quoting him so many times. But at that meeting while I spoke to my spiritual director I was given an imperative that changed forever the way I viewed suffering.
During my spiritual direction I spoke about several issues that have been plaguing me for years. I complained that these issues didn't get any better and that I felt abandoned by God. My spiritual director listened to me patiently until he uttered, "You must not be only resigned to the cross but you must love the cross because there is little love in resignation."
I was affected very much by those words. I admit at first I was upset how could I love the troubles that have been plaguing my life for years. How could I love pain, disappointment, fear, and frustration. It all seemed sort of masochistic like I was called to enjoy pain.
As I drove home last night it all began to make sense to me. Even though I didn't want to admit it I began to agree with my spiritual director's assessment. I thought of how a good mother loves her child unconditionally. I saw it in nature, I read about it in the lives of the saints, in the gospels. Why did I think that somehow this heroic surrender didn't apply to me?
The reason for this is that I made the mistake many good Christians make; I thought that as long as I fulfilled my duties, my life would be OK. This might be understandable, but it not the complete image of love. To really love is to welcome suffering into your life. What person in love hasn't felt the sting of pain when seeing their loved one suffering? What soldier hasn't felt that burden of having loved when seeing their comrade killed in battle? What parent hasn't felt the heart rending pain of seeing their child make poor life choices? In all of these examples we are called to love the cross of Christ.
Why love the cross?
Its simple. Because Jesus did. Jesus didn't run away from the cross. He embraced it. He could have totally escaped his fate, he was God after all. But he chose to accept the cross as a way of saving humanity. When viewed from this angle embracing the cross is a privilege because it unities us to Jesus who did the very same thing.
I want to end this post with this great quote from The Imitation of Christ:
"Jesus has many who love His Kingdom in Heaven, but few who bear His Cross (Luke 14:27). He has many who desire comfort, but few who desire suffering. He finds many to share His feast, but few His fasting. All desire to rejoice with Him, but few are willing to suffer for His sake. Many follow Jesus to the Breaking of Bread, but few to the drinking of the Cup of His Passion. Many admire His miracles, but few follow Him in the humiliation of His Cross. Many love Jesus as long as no hardship touches them. Many praise and bless Him, as long as they are receiving any comfort from Him. But if Jesus withdraw Himself, they fall to complaining and utter dejection." Thomas A Kempis