Thursday, September 18, 2014

Friends of the Cross, Part 5

[2. Nothing is so useful and so agreeable]

34. But if, on the contrary, you suffer in the right way, the cross will become a yoke that is easy and light, since Christ himself will carry it with you. It will give you wings, as it were, to lift you to heaven; it will become your ship's mast, bringing you smoothly and easily to the harbour of salvation.

Carry your cross patiently, and it will be a light in your spiritual darkness, for the one who has never suffered trials is ignorant.

Carry your cross cheerfully, and you will be filled with divine love; for only in suffering can we dwell in the pure love of Christ.

Roses are only found among thorns. It is the cross alone which nourishes our love of God, as wood is the fuel which feeds the fire. Remember the beautiful saying in the "Imitation of Christ", "In proportion as you do violence to yourself, by suffering patiently, so will you make progress" in divine love.

Do not expect anything from those sensitive and slothful people who reject the cross when it approaches them, and who are careful not to seek out crosses. What are they but an un-tilled soil which will produce nothing but thorns because it has not been dug up, harrowed and turned over by an experienced farmer? They are like stagnant water, which is unfit for either washing or drinking.

Carry your cross cheerfully and you will draw from it an all-powerful strength which none of your enemies will be able to resist, and you will find in it a delight beyond anything you have known. Indeed, brethren, the true earthly paradise is found in suffering for Christ.

Ask any of the saints, and they will tell you they have never tasted a banquet more delicious for the spirit than when undergoing the severest torments. "Let all the torments of the devil come upon me," said St. Ignatius the Martyr. "Let me suffer or die," said St. Teresa of Avila. "Not death but suffering," said St. Mary Magdalene of Pazzi. "May I suffer and be despised for your sake," said Blessed John of the Cross. And many others have spoken in the same terms, as we read in their lives.

My dear brothers and sisters, have faith in the word of God, for the Holy Spirit tells us that when we suffer cheerfully for God, the cross is the source of every kind of joy for all kinds of people. The joy that comes from the cross is greater than that of a poor man who suddenly comes into a fortune, or of a peasant who is raised to the throne; greater than the joy of a trader who becomes a millionaire; than of a military leader over the victories he has won; than of prisoners released from their chains. In short, imagine the greatest joy that can be experienced on earth, and then realise that the happiness of the one who bears his sufferings in the right way contains, and even surpasses, all of them.

[3. Nothing is so glorious]

35. So rejoice and be glad when God favours you with one of his choicest crosses; for without realising it, you are blessed with the greatest gift of heaven, the greatest gift of God. If you really appreciated it, you would have Masses offered, you would make novenas at the shrines of the saints, you would undertake long pilgrimages, as did the saints, to obtain from heaven this divine gift.

36. The world calls this madness, degradation, stupidity, a lack of judgement and of common sense. They are blind: let them say what they like. This blindness, which makes them view the cross in a human and distorted way, is a source of glory to us. Every time they cause us to suffer by their ridicule and insults, they are presenting us with jewels, setting us on a throne, and crowning us with laurels.

37. More than that ... as St. John Chrysostom says, "All the wealth and honours and sceptres and jeweled crowns of kings and emperors are not to be compared with the splendour of the cross." It is greater even than the glory of an apostle or evangelist. "If I had the choice," continues this holy man, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, "I would willingly leave heaven in order to suffer for the God of heaven. I would prefer dungeons and prisons to the thrones of the highest heaven, and the heaviest of crosses to the glory of the seraphim. I value the honour of suffering more than the gift of miracles, giving me the power to command evil spirits, shake the elements of the world, halt the sun in its course, or raise the dead to life. St. Peter and St. Paul are more glorious in their prison chains than in being caught up into the third heaven or receiving the keys of heaven."

38. Indeed, is it not the Cross which has given to Jesus Christ "the name which is above all other names, so that all beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld should bend the knee at the name of Jesus?" The glory of one who knows how to suffer is so great that heaven, angels and men, and even God himself, gaze on him with joy as a most glorious sight. And if the saints in heaven desired anything, it would be to return to earth so as to bear some crosses.

38. But if this glory is so great even on earth, what will it be in heaven? Who could describe it? Who could ever understand fully that eternal weight of glory which a single moment spent in cheerfully carrying a cross obtains for us? Who could understand the glory gained in heaven by a year, and sometimes a whole lifetime, of crosses and suffering?

40. You can be sure, my dear Friends of the Cross, that something wonderful is awaiting you, since the Holy Spirit has united you so intimately to that which everyone so carefully avoids. And you can be sure, too, that God will make of you as many saints as there are Friends of the Cross if you are faithful to your vocation and willingly carry your cross as Christ did.

D. Let him follow me

41. But to suffer is not enough; the evil one and the world have their martyrs. We must suffer and carry our cross in the footsteps of Christ: "Let him follow me," that is to say, we must suffer the way Jesus did. To help you to do that, here are the rules to be followed:

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